On July 27, 2016, the Interim Report for Ontario's Changing
Workplaces Review was released. This marks the next phase of the
Ministry of Labour's effort to modernize Ontario's labour
and employment laws. The Interim Report also solicits feedback from
the public – including employers — as part of the
review's consultation process. Submissions on personal
emergency leave are due by August 31, 2016, while all other
submissions must be in by October 14, 2016.
The Changing Workplaces Review has the potential to recommend
significant changes to labour and employment legislation in
Ontario, so employers are encouraged to provide suggestions. To
date, much of the feedback has been from employees, unions, and
other employee advocates.
The Changing Workplaces Review, announced in the 2014 Speech
from the Throne and being conducted by Special Advisors C. Michael
Mitchell and John C. Murray, is the first comprehensive review of
Ontario's Employment Standards Act, 2000
("ESA") and Labour Relations Act, 1995
("LRA"). It aims to review the evolving nature of
Ontario's workplaces and modernize its laws accordingly. The
Ministry of Labour is considering these developments in light of
Ontario's changing economy, demographics, lifestyles,
technologies, and trends in labour and employment law. The review
specifically focuses on recommendations to amend the ESA, the LRA,
and their regulations.
The Interim Report — over 300 pages, and available here — reviews the Special
Advisors' findings to date based on public consultations
received thus far. These include comments on ways the ESA and LRA
could be amended to enhance protections for "vulnerable
workers in precarious jobs", as well as to provide supports
for businesses and employers.
This Interim Report does not make any proposals or
recommendations; those will follow in the Final Report, and may or
may not be adopted by the government through legislation. Rather,
the purpose of the Interim Report is to "advise Ontarians of
the range of issues that have been identified and the options for
change that we are being asked to consider." It also seeks to
spur further, focused feedback from interested parties.
In general, the Interim Report is thorough, impartial, and
thoughtfully written. It identifies approximately 50 issues, and
each section includes a list of options — over 225 in total
— that were suggested through the consultation process, which
are numerous, creative, sometimes contradictory, and almost always
include an option to maintain the status quo.
The suggestions included in the Interim Report reflect an
unsurprising trend: employers would generally like more flexibility
to run their businesses, while employees and employee advocates
would generally like more protections and fewer obstacles to
unionization. Stakeholders also commented that the ESA is too
complex and difficult to understand and apply.
Specific concerns were also raised regarding, among other
things, personal emergency leave and its impact on absenteeism; the
wide discretion of employers to schedule employee shifts; and the
lack of effective enforcement tools in the ESA. The Interim Report
also indicates that while employers all wanted to retain the status
quo under the LRA, other consultation parties sought changes that
would ultimately increase unionization rates (such as by loosening
certification procedures and strengthening penalties for employer
Although the Special Advisors received over 300 written
submissions and heard from 200 stakeholders over 12 public hearing
dates, the Interim Report seeks further input from interested
parties. Based on the feedback received and options suggested, it
appears that employees and employee advocates (such as unions) were
the most vocal with their feedback. The Interim Report seeks to
ensure that all stakeholders — namely, employers – have
an opportunity to provide feedback on specific potential changes
before final recommendations are made that could have a significant
impact on the way they run their businesses.
The Changing Workplaces Review has the potential to
significantly amend, if not completely overhaul, Ontario's
labour and employment laws. Employers are encouraged to provide
feedback on the Interim Report by contacting the Ministry of
Labour, by email (CWR.SpecialAdvisors@ontario.ca),
mail, or fax. Details for how to do so are available on this Ministry webpage. The deadline to provide
comments on personal emergency leave is August 31, 2016, while
other submissions are due by October 14, 2016.
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.
A former teacher at Bodwell High School has learned a valuable lesson from the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal— it is not discriminatory for an employer to offer child-related benefits to only employees with children.
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.
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).