In A Flash

Ontario Finalizes Further Changes to Workplace Laws as Bill 66 Receives Royal Assent

Restoring Ontario’s Competitiveness Act, 2019, known colloquially as Bill 66, has received Royal Assent and is now law.

As previously reported in our December 7, 2018 In A Flash article, Introducing Bill 66: A Bill that Builds on Ontario’s Workplace Law Reforms, Bill 66 amends the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (“ESA”), the Labour Relations Act, 1995 (“LRA”), and the Pension Benefits Act (“PBA”).

Highlights of the changes in the Act to Restore Ontario’s Competitiveness include:

Employment Standards Act, 2000

  • Posting ESA Posters:  Employers are no longer required to post in the workplace a poster providing information about the ESA and its associated regulations. However, employers are obligated to provide the most recent version of the poster to their employees.
  • Excess Hours: An employee’s weekly hours can exceed the limits set out in the ESA if the employee has made an agreement with the employer that he or she will work up to a specified number of hours in a work week in excess of the limit. The Employer is no longer required to seek approval of the Director of Employment Standards for such an agreement.
  • Overtime Averaging: Employers are no longer required to seek the approval of the Director of Employment Standards to enter into overtime averaging agreements with their employees.
  • Duration of Overtime Averaging Agreements: Under the previous terms of the ESA, averaging agreements applicable to unionized employees cannot be valid for more than one year after they take effect.  Bill 66 allows these agreements to be effective until a subsequent collective agreement applicable to the employees comes into operation. Note: If the employee is not represented by a trade union, the averaging agreement’s expiry date shall not be more than two years after the start date.

Labour Relations Act, 1995

  • Deeming Non-Construction Employers: Bill 66 amends the LRA to deem municipalities and certain local boards, school boards, hospitals, colleges, universities, and public bodies to be non-construction employers. When this section comes into force, any construction trade union that represents employees of such entities will no longer represent such employees in the construction industry and any collective agreement will cease to apply.
  • This amendment would effectively strip bargaining rights held by construction trade unions with certain public sector entities and allow such public sector entities to perform construction work free of any obligations imposed under the construction trade union’s collective agreement.

Since the initial release of the Bill, the list of deemed organizations has also been expanded to include:

  • local housing corporations as defined in the Housing Services Act, 2011,
  • corporations established under Municipal Act, 2001or the City of Toronto Act, 2006 and
  • district social services administration boards established under the District Social Services Administration Boards Act.

The LRA has also been amended to clarify that a “local board” is one which is defined as such in the Municipal Act, 2001 or in the City of Toronto Act, 2006. 

  • Opt-out Election: Bill 66 provides a procedure for certain existing organizations to “opt-out” of these rules by filing an election with the Ministry of Labour. An entity which opts out can later apply to the Ontario Labour Relations Board to seek designation as a non-construction employer, despite previously electing to opt-out.  However, to be successfully declared a non-construction employer, the entity would then need to pass the traditional tests under section 127.2 of the OLRA, which has presented a significant hurdle for many applicants in the past.
  • Amending the Bargaining Unit: Some of the entities affected by the amendments regarding non-construction employers may have bargaining units that include construction and non-construction employees. These entities are now able to apply to the Ontario Labour Relations Board to have the composition of such bargaining units redefined.

Pension Benefits Act

  • Bill 66 amends the PBA to allow private-sector single employer pension plans to more easily merge with jointly sponsored pensioned plans.

Most of the changes to the ESA, and PBA are now in effect. With respect to the amendments to the LRA pertaining to non-construction employers, those amendments will come into force on a day named by a proclamation of the Lieutenant Governor.

If you have any questions regarding the impact of any upcoming changes to Ontario’s workplace laws, please do not hesitate to contact a Mathews Dinsdale lawyer.

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