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First Round of Amendments to Bill 148 Does Not Address Many Employer Concerns

August 25, 2017

First Round of Amendments to Bill 148 Does Not Address Many Employer Concerns

Ontario’s Bill 148, known colloquially as the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, 2017, passed the first reading on June 1, 2017.  The proposed Bill contains extensive amendments to both the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (“ESA”) and the Labour Relations Act, 1995 (“LRA”), as part of the Ontario Government’s efforts to revamp Ontario’s workplace laws.
As previously reported in our May 30th article Ontario Moves Quickly to Overhaul Workplace Laws, the ESA amendments proposed by Bill 148 include matters such as providing equal pay for part-time workers, increasing vacation entitlements and expanding personal emergency leave protections.  One of the centerpieces and more controversial aspects of Bill 148 is the proposed increase in minimum wage from the current rate of $11.40/hour (increasing to $11.60 in October 2017) to $14/hour in January 2018, and eventually to $15/hour by January 2019.
The Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs met this week to discuss proposed changes to Bill 148.  Unfortunately for employers, the planned phase-in of a $15/hour minimum wage rate and other increased entitlements for employees remain intact.  Some of the more notable changes to the Bill made by the committee are set out below.
Employment Standards

  • Imposing more onerous record keeping requirements on employers and temporary help agencies relating to matters such as on-call schedules, vacation time and vacation pay;
  • Introducing new requirement for employers to to give employees who agree to work on a public holiday and who are entitled to a substitute holiday a written statement setting out the public holiday that the employee will work on and the day that is designated to be the substitute holiday;
  • Exempting an employee’s right to refuse an employer’s request or demand to work or to be on call, if the employer’s request or demand is to deal with an emergency, to remedy or reduce a threat to public safety, or for any other reason as may be prescribed;
  • Providing an additional six weeks of time off for employees after a pregnancy loss or stillbirth;
  • Providing for more generous leave entitlements and adding provisions on leaves of absence taken to manage the trauma associated with domestic and sexual violence leaves; and
  • Expanding the ESA’s existing exclusion of individuals performing work under a program approved by a college of applied arts and technology or a university to include individuals performing work under a program approved by a private career college.

As many of these revisions will likely impact current record keeping practices, steps should be taken to review and revisit the record retention and information privacy policies, as well as employment contracts and other policy documents, and to do so well in advance of the effective date of change.
Labour Relations

  • Imposing new requirement for employers to provide a statutory declaration setting out the number of individuals in the bargaining unit described in a certification application, if the employer disagrees with the trade union’s estimate;
  • Providing parties engaged in first-contract negotiations with the ability to request educational support in the practice of labour relations and collective bargaining; and
  • Extending the prohibition on job action following the appointment of a first-contract mediator from 20 days to 45 days.

Second reading of Bill 148 is expected to occur next month.  If the proposed legislation is passed, all labour relations proposals would be in effect six (6) months after the Bill comes into force.
It is important to underscore that none of the changes have actually been passed into law, so it remains to be seen which changes will ultimately be adopted and implemented by the Government.  There will also be another chance to make changes to the Bill after the second reading, which is expected to take place next month at the Provincial Legislature.
However, anticipating that many of the recommendations may be adopted, it would be prudent to ensure existing practices and procedures are updated, as appropriate, to minimize unintended breaches when any changes take effect, while ensuring stability and predictability for existing arrangements.
If you have any questions regarding the impact of any of the proposed amendments to Ontario’s workplace laws, or steps you can take to reduce their impact, please do not hesitate to contact a Mathews Dinsdale lawyer.

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