More, and possibly quite substantive, changes to Ontario's
labour and employment laws are on their way. While the province has
already proposed and/or made a number of changes to both the
Employment Standards Act, 2000 ("ESA")
and Labour Relations Act, 1995 ("LRA")
in recent months – you can read about them here, here, and here – it has begun a broad
review of its overall legal framework to the regulation of
In the Speech from the Throne presented on July 3, 2014, the
province announced that it would undertake a broad review of the
province's legislative framework for labour and employment. The
province has stated that the process – called the
"Changing Workplaces Review" – will have two main
Engaging openly with Ontarians to consider actions that will
support labour and employment law reforms – focusing on the
protection of workers while supporting business in an evolving
Leading a review of Ontario's system of employment and
labour standards through reforms that reflect the realities of the
modern economy, such as the rise of non-standard employment and the
reduction in the prevalence of employer benefits and training.
The Review includes a series of public consultations, which
began in Toronto on June 16, 2015 and will take place in a variety
of locations through the end of September. The province has stated
that the Review will be the first step towards identifying
potential labour and employment law reforms.
The province has appointed two special advisors to lead the
consultations: C. Michael Mitchell, a former senior partner at the
union-side firm Sack Goldblatt Mitchell LLP and the Hon. John C.
Murray, a former Ontario Superior Court Justice and management-side
labour and employment lawyer.
What is and is not open for consideration
The province has stated that the Review will attempt to identify
what changes, if any, should be made to the ESA and
LRA in light of the changing nature of the economy and the
actors and trends that influence it. You can find the Guide to
The Review will focus on the following trends:
The increase in non-standard working relationships, such as
part-time work, temporary contracts, and self-employment;
The rise in prominence of the service sector;
The impact of trade liberalization and globalization on the
workplace, which increase pressure on employers to reduce costs and
Accelerating technological change; and
Great workforce diversity.
Notably, the province has expressly stated that the Review
will not consider the following:
the construction industry provisions of the LRA;
the minimum wage; and
policy discussions for which other independent processes have
been initiated, including the gender wage gap, certain specific
issues related to migrant workers, legislation relating to
compulsory arbitration for certain public employees, and broader
public sector bargaining structures.
While we do not yet know what recommendations will be made as a
result of the Review, which is still in its early stages, given the
scope of the Review's mandate it is only reasonable to
anticipate changes that will have a notable impact on Ontario
employers and workplaces.
The foregoing provides only an overview and does not
constitute legal advice. Readers are cautioned against making any
decisions based on this material alone. Rather, specific legal
advice should be obtained.
Unfortunately, reasonable accommodation for employees in the workplace continues to be the source of significant litigation and even today we continue to see outrageous examples of employers behaving badly.
We are now beginning to see reported cases involving charges and subsequent fines laid against employers for failing to provide information, instruction and supervision to protect a worker from workplace violence.
On October 13, 2016, the Supreme Court of Canada denied leave to appeal an Ontario Court of Appeal decision which ordered an employer to pay a former employee 37 months of salary and benefits following termination.
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