On Wednesday, November 22, 2017, the Government of Ontario passed Bill 148, the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, 2017. Introduced on June 1, 2017 as a response to the Final Report of the Changing Workplaces Review, Bill 148 makes significant amendments to Ontario’s Employment Standards Act, 2000, Labour Relations Act, 1995 and most recently, the Occupational Health and Safety Act. As many are aware, aside from the highly publicized $15 Minimum Wage, Bill 148 will require employers to make significant changes to their policies and practices.
Bill 148, the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, 2017 has now passed Third Reading and is awaiting Royal Assent. Prior to passing, some last minute, but significant, changes were made to the Bill. Most significant, perhaps, was the inclusion of paid leave for the first five days of Domestic or Sexual Violence Leave. As we recently reported, the new leave allows employees to take up to 17 weeks off work, in a flexible manner, to deal with matters related to domestic or sexual violence. Other significant amendments that were made to Bill 148 prior to it becoming law include:
- The addition of a Critical Illness Leave;
- The expansion of Family Medical Leave;
- The expansion of the list of professionals who can certify statutory leaves;
- A revision to the “three-hour rule” that will entitle employees to more pay guarantees;
- Exceptions to the on-call and scheduling rules for employers who provide essential public services;
- Clarification that for Equal Pay for Equal Work to apply, the duties performed by workers do not necessarily have to be identical, but rather “substantially the same”;
- Deletion of the hours-based “seniority system” exception to Equal Pay for Equal Work;
- The expansion of what employee information may need to be provided to a union during a union organizing drive; and
- A ban on mandatory high-heeled shoes in the workplace under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (except for the entertainment industry).
Aside from the above noted changes, the other major reforms proposed by Bill 148, which we wrote about here and here, such as the movement to a $15 minimum wage, paid emergency leave and equal pay for part-time, contract and temporary employees, are set to come into force in the near future. In fact, the majority of changes will come into effect on January 1, 2018. As a result, employers should be preparing for these changes now.