On May 30, 2017, the Ontario government announced that it will be introducing The Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, 2017 (the “Act”), which incorporates proposals to amend Ontario’s Employment Standards Act, 2000 (the “ESA”) and Labour Relations Act, 1995 (the “LRA”). This announcement comes after the release of the Changing Workplaces Review Final Report on May 23, 2017.

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The Ontario government’s full backgrounder on the proposed changes can be found here. The majority of the proposed changes to the ESA are projected to come into force by 1 January 2018 and the proposed changes to the LRA are projected to come into effect six months after the Act comes into force.

Some of the proposed changes are as follows:

  • increasing the general minimum wage to CAD 14 per hour on 1 January 2018 and CAD 15 per hour on 1 January 2019;
  • ensuring that casual, part-time, temporary and seasonal employees are paid the same as full-time employees when performing the same job for the same employer;
  • amending scheduling rules so that employees have the right to (i) request schedule changes without fear of reprisal and (ii) refuse shifts where the employer only gives four days’ notice;
  • entitling all employees to three weeks of paid vacation after five years of service with the same employer;
  • entitling all employees to 10 personal emergency leave (PEL) days per year, including 2 paid PEL days;
  • allowing unions to access employee lists and certain contact information where the union can demonstrate it has already achieved support of 20 per cent of the employees involved; and
  • establishing card-based union certification for specific industries, among other changes to the union certification process.

The Act puts a clear emphasis on enforcement of employment standards. The Ontario government plans to hire up to 175 more employment standards officers by 2020-2021, at which time, the Employment Standards program will be aiming to (i) resolve all claims filed within 90 days and (ii) inspect 1 in 10 Ontario workplaces. The Ontario government has signalled that it intends to increase monetary penalties for non-compliance and the Director of Employment Standards might be given the power to publicly disclose the names of employers that have contravened the ESA and any penalties that have been issued.

The proposed amendments to the ESA and LRA are not yet in effect. The Ontario government has proposed that a broad consultation process be conducted in order to obtain feedback from a wide variety of stakeholders. We will keep you apprised of any further updates.