In A Flash

Ontario Proposes Amendments Impacting Remote Workers and New Hires

Updated March 22, 2023

The proposed changes – reflected in the just-released Working for Workers Act, 2023 (also identified as Bill 79, available here) – would make remote workers eligible for same “enhanced” notice period as in-office employees in the event of a mass termination, and entitle new hires to certain written information about their jobs

The Ontario government has announced that it is proposing changes to the mass termination provisions of the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (“ESA”), concerning notice for workers whose employment is severed as part of a mass termination.

Currently, where an employer terminates 50 or more employees at their establishment over a four-week period, these employees are entitled to an enhanced notice period of eight, twelve, or sixteen weeks’ notice, depending on the number of terminations effected. Remote workers do not currently qualify for these notice periods, even as part of a mass termination, as they work from home and not their employer’s “establishment”.

The ESA definition of “establishment” currently only includes the location (or multiple locations, under certain circumstances) at which an employer carries on business. This typically excludes home offices or other remote workspaces.

The Working for Workers Act, 2023 would seek to broaden the definition of “establishment”, and extend it to encompass employees’ remote offices. It would specifically include the private residence of an employee in the definition, provided that the employee performs work in the private residence and does not perform work at any other location where the employer carries on business.

If passed, this change would entitle employees who work exclusively from home to the enhanced notice entitlements that their on-site counterparts receive following a mass termination.

Other changes proposed by the Ontario government include updated requirements regarding information that employers must provide to new hires. As of now, the ESA only requires employers to give new hires the latest version of the ESA employment standards poster, outlining general information about the ESA and its regulations.

Meanwhile, the proposed changes would require employers to provide new hires with specific information about their job in writing. Such requirements may include information on pay, work location and hours of work, as well as the date by which employers would need to furnish this information.  The specifics of what information will be required are expected to be set out in one or more Regulations to the ESA.

These changes are at the First Reading stage and have not been passed, meaning they are not yet law. We will provide updates as details emerge regarding upcoming changes.

If you have any questions about this topic, or any questions relating to workplace law generally, please do not hesitate to contact a Mathews Dinsdale lawyer.

The Firm gratefully acknowledge the assistance of Joanna Strozak, an Articling Student in the firm’s Toronto office.

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