Canada: Wynne Government Intends To Propose The Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, 2017 In Response To Changing Workplaces Review Recommendations

Yesterday Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and Labour Minister Kevin Flynn unveiled the government's formal response to the Changing Workplaces Review Final Report, and the special advisors' 173 recommendations for change to the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA) and the Labour Relations Act, 1995 (LRA). Although Premier Wynne's Liberal government has not embraced all of these recommendations, with the stated goals of creating more opportunity and security for workers, its blueprint for overhauling the province's current employment and labour laws represents a very sharp swing to the left.

Do not expect to see any actual legislation for several months. The announcement comes in the final week of the legislative session, just two days before MPPs rise for the summer break. Further, it appears there will be some opportunity for employer groups and others to have their voices heard before any legislation is passed. According to the news release from the Office of the Premier, Ontario is proposing a "broad consultation process" to gain feedback from a wide variety of stakeholders on the draft legislation it intends to introduce. Given that some of the proposals, if passed, would come into effect as early as January 1, 2018, we should expect a busy fall session.

Read the Ministry of Labour backgrounder

ESA proposals

Proposed changes to the ESA, if eventually enacted, would include the following.

Minimum Wage Increases

In the Changing Workplaces Review Final Report, the special advisors did not address the general minimum wage, although they did comment on the minimum wage differentials for liquor servers and students under age 18. Nonetheless, and absent any recommendation in the special advisors' 419-page final report, the Wynne government has tabled a proposal to increase the general minimum wage to $14 per hour on January 1, 2018, and $15 per hour on January 1, 2019, followed by annual increases at the rate of inflation.

The current special minimum wage rates for students under 18, liquor servers, hunting and fishing guides and homeworkers (employees doing paid work in their own homes for an employer) would remain in effect, with increases by the same percentage as the general minimum wage, as follows:  

Equal Pay for Equal Work Provisions

Part-time, casual, temporary and seasonal employees doing the same job as full-time employees would be paid equally to full-time employees when performing the same job for the same employer. An exception to the equal wage requirement would apply where a wage difference is based on (a) a seniority system; (b) a merit system; (c) a system that measures earnings by quantity or quality of production; or (d) other factors justifying the difference on objective grounds.

Temporary help agency employees doing the same job as permanent employees at the agencies' client companies would be paid equally to those permanent employees.

If passed, these equal pay proposals would come into force on April 1, 2018.


The proposed legislation, if passed, would establish new scheduling rules to come into force on January 1, 2019, including the following.

After having been employed for three months, employees would have the right to request schedule or location changes. All employees would be permitted to refuse shifts if asked to work with fewer than four days' notice. Employees "on-call" who are not called into work would be paid for three hours, at their regular rate, for each 24-hour period that they are on call. If a shift is cancelled within 48 hours of its start, affected employees would be entitled to three hours' pay at their regular rate.

Employee Misclassification

The proposed legislation would prohibit employers from misclassifying employees as "independent contractors." In the event of a dispute, the onus would be on the employer to prove that the individual is not an employee. Employers who misclassify employees could be subject to penalties including prosecution, public disclosure of a conviction and monetary penalties. If passed, these proposals would come into force on royal assent.

Notably, the government has confirmed that the definition of "employee" will not be broadened to include a "dependent contractor." Acknowledging that doing so would "create significant legal and potentially economic uncertainties" the Ministry of Labour backgrounder notes that a recent Law Commission of Ontario study specifically advised against a "dependent contractor" provision as its scope would be very difficult to define without inadvertently capturing independent contractors.

Joint Liability

The proposed legislation would remove the requirement for proof of "intent or effect" to defeat the purpose of the ESA when determining whether related businesses can be treated as one employer, and held jointly and severally liable for monies owed under the ESA. If passed, this proposal would come into effect on January 1, 2018.

Paid Vacation

The minimum paid vacation entitlement for employees with five or more years of service would increase from two to three weeks a year. If passed, this proposal would come into effect on January 1, 2018.

Personal Emergency Leave

The proposed legislation would eliminate the 50+ employee threshold for personal emergency leave (PEL), entitling all employees to 10 PEL days per year, including two paid PEL days. The reasons for taking PEL days would be expanded so that employees experiencing domestic or sexual violence, or the threat of such violence, could take the leave.

The proposed changes would also prohibit an employer from requesting a sick note from an employee taking PEL.

If passed, the PEL proposals would come into effect on January 1, 2018.

Leaves for the Death of a Child and for Crime-Related Disappearance

The proposed legislation would create a new, separate leave (presumably unpaid) for a period of up to 104 weeks in the event of a child's death from any cause. It would also establish a separate leave for a period of up to 104 weeks for the crime-related disappearance of a child. If passed, these proposals would come into force on January 1, 2018.

Exemptions and Special Industry Rules

At this time, there are no proposed changes to the current array of ESA exemptions and special industry rules. However, in fall 2017, in consultation with affected stakeholders, the ministry will conduct a review of the exemptions and special rules, including the exemptions currently in place for managers and supervisors.

Penalties for Non-Compliance

The government also intends to amend an ESA regulation to increase the maximum penalties for non-compliant employers from $250/$500/$1,000 to $350/$700/$1,500.

Further, proposed changes would allow the Director of Employment Standards to publish (including online) the names of individuals who have been issued a penalty, a description and the date of the contravention, and the amount of the penalty. If this proposal passes, it would come into force on January 1, 2018.

LRA proposals

Key proposals for reforming the LRA are clearly intended to make it easier for unions to obtain bargaining rights. If the proposed Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, 2017 is passed, all LRA proposals, including those summarized below, would come into effect six months after that act comes into force.

Union Certification

The proposed legislation would establish card-based certification for the temporary help agency industry, the building services industry and the home care and community services industry.

Proposals would also make several changes to the union certification process, including by:

  • requiring the employer to disclose employee lists and certain contact information if the union demonstrates it has already achieved the support of 20% of the employees involved;
  • allowing unions to certify more easily when an employer engages in misconduct that contravenes the LRA; and
  • making first contract arbitration more accessible by adding an intensive mediation component to the process.

Successor Rights

Proposals include extending successor rights to the retendering of building services contracts and would also enable the government to apply successor rights, by regulation, to the retendering of other publicly funded contracted services.

Structure of Bargaining Units

Proposals would permit the Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB) to change the structure of bargaining units within a single employer, when the existing units are no longer appropriate for collective bargaining. The proposals would also permit the OLRB to consolidate newly certified bargaining units under a single employer, where those units are represented by the same bargaining agent.

Return to Work Rights

Currently, striking employees have a general right to return to work within six months of a lawful strike. Proposed changes would remove the six-month limitation. The proposed changes would also (subject to certain limitations) require employers to reinstate an employee at the conclusion of a lawful strike or lockout, and provide access to grievance arbitration to enforce that obligation.

Just Cause Protection

Proposals would protect employees from discipline or discharge without just cause in the period between certification and the conclusion of a first contract, as well as during the period between the date the parties are in legal strike/lockout position and the new collective agreement.


Currently, on conviction for an offence for a violation of the LRA, individuals can be fined up to $5,000 and corporations, employers' organizations, unions and trade union councils can be fined up to $25,000. Each day that a contravention continues may constitute a separate offence. As the special advisors noted in the Changing Workplaces Review Final Report, these maximum amounts have not changed since 1990.

The proposed legislation, if passed, would increase these maximum amounts to make individuals liable to a fine of up to $5,000, and corporations, employers' organizations, unions and trade union councils liable to a fine of up to $100,000.

What's next?

As indicated above, the Wynne government, which has been plagued with extremely low public approval ratings for some time now, will be proposing a broad consultation process to gain feedback from a wide variety of stakeholders on the draft legislation it intends to introduce.

There is no doubt that Premier Wynne's plan for reforming Ontario's employment and labour laws will be more popular with unions and employee advocacy groups than with the employer community. Indeed, the proposed reforms announced today are not surprising, given that the Wynne government mandated the special advisors who conducted the Changing Workplaces Review to focus on precarious work and decreased job security for employees. It remains to be seen, however, how the proposed reforms, if enacted, would help provide an environment supportive of business in the changing economy.

In fact, over the past several months employer groups have challenged whether radical reforms to Ontario's labour and employment laws are even necessary. In an interview with CBC News in February 2017, Ontario Chamber of Commerce Vice President Karl Baldauf cautioned against "putting businesses in a position where they will actually be less inclined to expand as a result of new, onerous regulations." The Chamber of Commerce has also urged the government not to make changes without clear evidence about the costs and benefits.  

Speaking to members of the press yesterday, Premier Wynne admitted that she expects a backlash from business groups concerned about rising labour costs. As reported by the Toronto Star, the Premier expects, "There's going to be howling. The business community will be yelling at me."

She has likely got that right.

About Norton Rose Fulbright Canada LLP

Norton Rose Fulbright is a global law firm. We provide the world's preeminent corporations and financial institutions with a full business law service. We have 3800 lawyers and other legal staff based in more than 50 cities across Europe, the United States, Canada, Latin America, Asia, Australia, Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia.

Recognized for our industry focus, we are strong across all the key industry sectors: financial institutions; energy; infrastructure, mining and commodities; transport; technology and innovation; and life sciences and healthcare.

Wherever we are, we operate in accordance with our global business principles of quality, unity and integrity. We aim to provide the highest possible standard of legal service in each of our offices and to maintain that level of quality at every point of contact.

For more information about Norton Rose Fulbright, see

Law around the world

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
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).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.