Canada: Ontario Proposes New Amendments To Employment Legislation, Reversing Changes Introduced By The Previous Government

Last Updated: December 12 2018
Article by Katy Allen

We previously reported changes to Ontario's Employment Standards legislation. Some of those changes are now being undone by Bill 47.

Bill 47, the Making Ontario Open for Business Act, 2018, received Royal Assent on November 21, 2018, marking a significant change to Ontario's labour and employment law landscape. The new legislation represents the provincial government's intention to cut "the burdensome, job-killing red tape that drives investment and jobs out of Ontario" by undoing changes implemented by the prior Liberal government in the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, 2017. Bill 47 returns Ontario's Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA) and Labour Relations Act, 1995 to their previous states, with some exceptions.

A high-level summary of Bill 47's changes to the ESA is provided below, the bulk of which will take effect on January 1, 2019.

Changes to the ESA

Minimum wage – Minimum wage will remain at $14 per hour (instead of increasing to $15 per hour as of January 1, 2019) until the next inflationary adjustment scheduled for October 1, 2020.

Scheduling – Bill 47 does not eliminate the "three-hour rule", which requires employers to pay a worker for three hours of work despite working less than three hours (with some exceptions). However, the following scheduling rules that were to come into force on January 1, 2019 have been repealed:

  • the right to request changes to scheduling after a worker has been employed for at least three months;
  • minimum of three hours of pay for being on-call;
  • the right to refuse requests to work or be on-call where a worker was provided with less than 96 hours' notice;
  • three hours of pay where a scheduled or on-call shift is cancelled within 48 hours of when the shift was to begin; and
  • the record-keeping requirements associated with these scheduling provisions.

Leaves of absence – The current 10-day entitlement for personal emergency leave (two of which are paid days) will be replaced by a package of annual unpaid leave days for workers employed for at least two consecutive weeks:

  • up to three unpaid days of sick leave;
  • up to three unpaid days of family responsibility leave; and
  • up to two unpaid days of bereavement leave.

Equal pay – While the requirement for equal pay on the basis of sex will remain in force, Bill 47 will no longer require employers to provide equal pay for equal work on the basis of employment status (e.g., part-time vs. full-time workers, temporary vs. permanent).

Public holiday pay – The old pro-rating public holiday pay formula will be re-adopted.

Maximum fines – The old penalty scheme for contravention of the ESA will also be re-adopted, decreasing maximum fines to $250, $500, and $1,000.

This summary is not an exhaustive list of the amendments made under Bill 47. There are also significant changes to the Labour Relations Act which we have not set out here.

Unfortunately, many employers have likely entered into written contracts of employment, or workplace policies, that provide a contractual right to the provisions provided for in Bill 148. Employers should proceed cautiously in removing such entitlements, for instance, to paid personal emergency leave days. Similarly, any ratified Collective Agreements negotiated to expressly include the employee-friendly provisions in Bill 148 will continue unchanged until expiry and renegotiation.

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.

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