In a recent blog post, we wrote about Bill 148, Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act which seeks to amend Ontario’s existing employment standards and labour relations legislation. Since then, Bill 148 has continued to move through the legislative process with committee hearings being held throughout the summer to discuss further changes to the Bill before it may be passed into law.

The Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs met on August 21, 2017. A number of proposals were put forward. The following is a summary of the motions that were passed and will be incorporated into Bill 148.

Changes to proposals related to the Employment Standards Act (“ESA”):

  • Record-keeping Requirements – Employers will be required to document information regarding employee scheduling, written agreements to work public holidays, leaves of absence, and employee vacation time and pay. The retention period for these documents will also be extended from 3 to 5 years).
  • 3 Hour-Rule – The new “3 hour rule”, which requires employers to pay employees at regular wage for 3 hours despite a shorter shift, will only apply if the shortened shift is the fault of the employer.
  • Extended leave – Leave for employees who experience pregnancy loss will be extended from 6 to 12 weeks and parental leave will be extended to a maximum of 63 weeks (from 37 weeks) to better align with changes to the federal Employment Insurance Act.
  • New Leave – For domestic and sexual violence, employees will be entitled to leave of up to 10 days.
  • Calculating Leave – If an employee takes any part of a week off for family medical leave, the employer can deem the entire week taken as leave. This deeming provision seeks to balance the increase from 8 to 27 weeks given to employees for family medical leave.
  • Right to Refuse Work Exception – The employee cannot refuse on-call work where the employer is requesting the individual to work to deal with an emergency, reduce a threat to public safety, or for such other reasons as may be prescribed.

Changes to proposals related to the Labour Relations Act (“LRA”):

  • Statutory Declaration – Employers will be required to provide a more formal declaration setting out the number of individuals in a bargaining unit if it disagrees with the trade union’s estimate.
  • Board Interference – The provision that allows the Labour Board to review and unilaterally consolidate bargaining units is set to be removed.
  • Mandatory Waiting Period – The waiting period which prohibits strikes during first collective agreement mediation is increased from 20 to 45 days from the day a mediator is appointed.
  • Transitional provisions – An active collective agreement will prevail over ESA provisions regarding the 3-Hour-Rule and equal pay until the earlier of the expiry of the agreement or January 1, 2020.

Other proposals that were put forward and dismissed include the removal of tiered wages to bring students and liquor servers into parity with general minimum wage requirements, regular economic impact analyses of Bill 148, a prohibition on replacement workers during strikes and lockouts, and universal card check certification across all industries.

This committee debate provides insight into the changes that employers could soon face as we continue to monitor the progress of Bill 148. The Ontario legislature is set to resume on September 11, 2017.

Many thanks to Megan Paterson for her assistance in drafting this article.