The Ontario government recently released its much anticipated final report, The Changing Workplaces Review: An Agenda for Workplace Rights (the “Report”), after over two years of review and consultation on employment and labour legislation in Canada. The review was initiated to assess the impact of globalization and other factors on employees in Ontario, particularly vulnerable employees. However, the 173 recommendations contained in the Report, if implemented, will significantly impact all employers and employees in Canada. We have summarized some of the key Employment Standards Act (ESA) recommendations for you below. 

Culture of Compliance and Increased Enforcement

One of the Report’s overarching themes is the need for a culture of compliance in Ontario workplaces. The Report suggests that this culture be achieved by 1) increasing enforcement powers and accompanying monetary penalties for violations of the ESA; and 2) consolidating employment, labour and occupational health and safety legislation into one “Workplace Rights Act”, with accompanying training and education. 

The Report also recommends that the ESA and Ontario Business Corporations Act be revised to extend director liability and remove any restrictions to an employee’s ability to recover up to 6 months’ wages and 12 months’ accrued vacation pay directly from the directors of a corporation if necessary.

Employment Standards Act Recommendations 

The Report also contains a number of recommendations regarding the ESA, including:

  • Narrowing the overtime exemption for managers and supervisors by including a minimum salary/duties test;
  • Removing any wage distinction between part-time, casual, temporary and seasonal employees as compared to their full-time employee equivalents (unless the difference in pay is objectively supported);
  • Increasing vacation entitlement to 3 weeks per year after 5 consecutive years of service with the same employer; and
  • Integrating the term “dependent contractor” into the definition of “employee” under the ESA. 

In response to this Report, the Ontario government has just indicated its intention to introduce The Fair Workplace, Better Jobs Act, 2017. This proposed legislation would include major amendments to the ESA, many of which reflect the Report recommendations noted above, as well as a staggered increase in the minimum wage. 

Many of the proposed amendments, if implemented, could have a significant impact on employers in Ontario, whether it be in the form of increased enforcement, fines and personal exposure, or the need for revised workplace policies and procedures as well as employment contracts. The Ontario government will be engaging in consultations on the proposed legislation in the coming months, so continue to watch this space.