The Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, 2017 (Bill 148) is the Ontario government's blueprint for overhauling the province's labour and employment laws.  Incorporating union-friendly changes to the Labour Relations Act, 1995 (LRA) and enhanced employee entitlements under the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA), Bill 148 represents a wide swing to the left.  It passed First Reading when it was introduced on June 1st and, in an expedited process, was referred to the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs the same day.  For two weeks in July, the Committee held 10 days of public hearings across Ontario, and also considered written submissions from a variety of stakeholders over the rest of the summer.

When the MPPs returned from their summer break last week, the Committee presented Bill 148 with amendments to several provisions, including those addressing equal pay for equal work, scheduling and leaves of absence under the ESA, and the certification process and bargaining unit review under the LRA.  Note, however, that the amendments do not include extending the timeline for raising the minimum wage to $14 (January 1, 2018) or subsequently to $15 (January 1, 2019).

The amended version of Bill 148 was ordered for Second Reading on September 11th and debated for the following two days.  We expect that it will pass Second and Third Reading as amended, and receive Royal Assent over the next few weeks, particularly since many of its amendments are intended to come into effect in less than 3½ months.

If – or more likely when – Bill 148 comes into effect, it will usher in sweeping changes to Ontario's labour and employment laws. Accordingly, it is absolutely crucial for employers to become familiar with the amended provisions and their potential impact on doing business in Ontario.

Over the next several days we will be blogging about significant amendments to Bill 148.  Stay tuned!

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