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Significant Changes to Employment Standards Coming to Ontario

By , June 2, 2017 8:36 am

On June 1, 2017, the Ontario government introduced legislation to amend Ontario’s Employment Standards Act, 2000 (the “ESA”) and the Labour Relations Act, 1995.

The Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, 2017 (the “Act”), builds on the Changing Workplaces Review Final Report which was released on May 23, 2017 after two years of consultations, including with our law firm.

The Act proposes several significant changes to employment standards in Ontario including increased minimum wage, paid sick days, and increased vacation.  Specifically, the changes set out in the Act are:

  • increasing the minimum wage to $14 per hour on January 1, 2018 and $15 per hour on January 1, 2019 – the lower rates for liquor servers and students will be increased by the same percentage as the general minimum wage;
  • entitling all employees to three weeks of paid vacation after five years of service with the same employer – currently the minimum is two weeks;
  • entitling all employees to 10 personal emergency leave days per year, including two paid days – currently only those who work for employers of 50 employees or more have personal emergency days and there are currently no paid sick days;
  • ensuring that casual, part-time, temporary, and seasonal employees are paid the same as full-time employees when doing the same job for the same employer;
  • imposing sanctions on employers that misclassify employees as “independent contractors;” and
  • 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.

Many of the changes would see precarious workers in Ontario experience as increase in compensation and paid time off work. We expect the paid sick days and scheduling rules to have a positive impact on female workers, in particular.  However, currently there is a significant gap between the rights contained in the ESA and the experience of workers.  The government has announced that it will hire up to 175 more employment standards officers to assist with education and enforcement of the ESA.  This will be the true test of whether these changes have a positive impact on Ontarians. Without increased compliance, the proposed changes are simply political posturing.

If you would like to speak to a lawyer at MacLeod Law Firm about employment standards, you can reach us at [email protected] or 647-204-8107.

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