Canada: Ontario Government Intends to Introduce Proposed Legislation, The Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, 2017

Earlier today 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). Wynne's Liberal government has not embraced all of those recommendations.  Nonetheless, with the stated goals of creating more opportunity and security for workers, the government's blueprint for overhauling the province's current employment and labour laws represents a wide swing to the left.

Proposed changes to the ESA, if enacted, would include:

  • Raising 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.
  • Mandating equal pay for part-time, casual and temporary and seasonal employees doing the same job as full-time employees and equal pay for temporary help agency employees doing the same job as permanent employees at the agencies' client companies.
  • Implementing new scheduling rules that would give employees the right to request schedule or location changes, and to refuse shifts if asked to work with less than four days' notice.
  • Increasing the paid minimum vacation entitlement for employees with five or more years of service from two to three weeks a year.
  • Eliminating the 50+ employee threshold for personal emergency leave (PEL), entitling all to 10 PEL days per year, including two paid PEL days.

Notably, there is no proposed change to the definition of "employee" to include a "dependent contractor".  Nor is there any proposed change to the exemption for managers and supervisors, although in fall 2017 the Ministry will conduct a review of ESA exemptions and special industry rules, including consultation with affected stakeholders.

Key proposals for reforming the LRA are clearly intended to make it easier for unions to obtain bargaining rights and, if enacted, would include:

  • Establishing card-based certification for the temporary help agency industry, the building services industry and home care and community services industry
  • Eliminating certain conditions for remedial certification, allowing unions to certify more easily when an employer engages in misconduct that contravenes the LRA
  • Disclosing employee lists and certain contact information if the union demonstrates it has already achieved the support of 20% of the employees involved.
  • Extending successor rights to the retendering of building services contracts.
  • Adding provisions to address the consolidation and amendment of bargaining units.

At this time, the government has not proposed extending the LRA to any group currently exempted.  However, the Ministry of Labour will engage in a further consultation process to review the special advisors' recommendation to remove exclusions under the LRA, taking into account ongoing litigation.

Read the Ministry of Labour Backgrounder

Don't expect to see any actual legislation for several months.  The government's announcement of its intention to introduce proposed legislation comes in the final week of the legislative session, just two days before MPPs rise for the summer break.

More importantly, according to the News Release from the Office of the Premier, Ontario will be proposing a broad consultation process to gain feedback from a wide variety of stakeholders on the draft legislation it intends to introduce.

Stay tuned!


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