Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, 2017 – Bill 148
On June 1, 2017, the Government of Ontario introduced Bill 148, the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, 2017, which proposed significant amendments to Ontario’s employment and labour legislation.
On November 27, 2017, the Bill received Royal Assent; therefore, many employers will need to adjust their employment agreements and policies to reflect these new amendments, which include significant changes to the Employment Standards Act (“ESA”), providing greater benefits and entitlements to employees, and greater obligations on employers.
Employment Standards Act, 2000
While the unemployment rate is at a 16-year low, the nature of work has changed. Many workers are struggling to support their families on part-time, contract or minimum wage-work. To help safeguard employees and create fairer and better workplaces, the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, 2017 now includes the followings:
• The Increase to Ontario’s minimum hourly wage rates are as follows:
||Effective October 1, 2017
||Effective January 1, 2018
||Effective January 1, 2019
- Employers will be required to pay casual, part-time, temporary and seasonal employees with the same wage as a full-time employee who are performing similar work, under similar working conditions, at the same level of skill, effort, and responsibility – effective January 1, 2018;
- Where an employee works for an employer for at least one year, the employee is currently entitled to a minimum of 2 weeks’ vacation. Amendments provide a minimum of 3 weeks’ vacation entitlement to employees whose period of employment is 5 years or more - effective January 1, 2018;
- Increased public holiday pay for part-time employees – previously calculated at 4 weeks prior to week of which the holiday falls. With the change in legislation, it must now be calculated as the average daily wages earned in the pay period and if the employee works on the statutory holiday and takes an alternative day in lieu, it must be in writing, stating the date of the public holiday, the substitute date and the date the agreement between the employee and employer was made - effective January 1, 2018;
- Personal Emergency Leave: prior to January 1, 2018, this leave only applied to employees of employers who employed at least 50 employees. However, the 50-employee threshold has been removed, thereby all employees are entitled to 10 days off for personal emergencies, 2 of which must be paid at the employee’s regular rate of pay. Also, employers are not permitted to require medical documentation to support the personal emergency, but can request “evidence reasonable in the circumstances” - effective January 1, 2018;
- Family Medical Leave: increased from 8 weeks in a 26-week period to up to 28 weeks in a 52-week period - effective January 1, 2018;
- Child Death Leave: previous entitlement to leave applied only in event of a crime-related child death for up to 104 weeks for an employee who has been employed for at least 6 consecutive months. New leave now extends this entitlement for up to 104 weeks if a child of the employee dies for any reason - effective January 1, 2018;
- Critical Illness Leave: an employee may take up to 37 weeks of leave to provide care and support to their critically ill child. In additional to current entitlements, an employee may take leave to provide care and support to any critically ill family member for up to 17 weeks - effective December 3, 2017;
- Pregnancy and Parental Leave: increased from 6 weeks to 12 weeks in the event of a still birth. Also, the length of parental leave was extended from 35 to 61 weeks if the employee takes a pregnancy leave = 18 months; and from 37 to 63 weeks for employees who did not - effective December 3, 2017;
- Domestic/Sexual Violence Leave: previously, this leave fell under “personal emergency leave” but is now a new standalone leave allowing an employee who has been employed for at least 13 consecutive weeks to take a leave of absence if the employee or their child experiences sexual or domestic violence. Leave can be up to 10 days (taken individually), up to 15 weeks (intermittently) to a maximum of 17 weeks total - - first 5 days must be paid. This is to allow time to obtain specific treatment or counselling - effective January 1, 2018;
- Employees now have the right to refuse a shift, or refuse to be on call if given less than 4 days’ notice - effective January 1, 2019;
- Employees are entitled to a minimum of 3 hours pay at their regular rate for being on call (even if they are not called into work) or if an employer cancels the employee’s shift within 48 hours of the start of that shift - effective January 1, 2019;
- Employees after 3 months of employment may submit a written request for a change to their work schedule/location without having to ask under premise of accommodation. Employer may still accept or deny, however must provide a reasonable explanation for their decision - effective January 1, 2019;
- Independent contractors may challenge job classification, and prohibit employers from treating, for the purpose of the ESA, a person who is their employee as if the person were not an employee under the ESA. Onus is on the employer to prove the individual remains a contractor, not an employee - effective November 27, 2017;
- Equal pay for equal work for agency employees - - doing jobs that are substantially the same as employees; performance requires substantially the same skill, effort and responsibility; and when work is performed under similar working conditions - effective April 1, 2018
- Temp agencies are required to provide an assignment employee with 1 weeks’ notice or pay in lieu of notice, where he/she is assigned to an assignment of at least 3 months and the assignment is terminated before the end of its estimated term - effective January 1, 2018.
There is also a new provision that falls under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA), where an employer shall not require an employee to wear footwear with an elevated heel unless it is required for the worker to perform his or her work safely – effective November 27, 2017
Going forward, Employment Standards Officers will be permitted to issue orders that require employers to pay directly to employees any unpaid wages or compensation owing from contraventions of the ESA, as well as award interest on employees’ unpaid wages and on fees that were unlawfully charged to employees. In addition, the Director of Employment Standards may issue warrants to pursue amounts owing, and to register liens on the business property or personal property of persons owing money under the ESA.
So what is the impact on your business?
- Some of the proposed changes are relatively simple, and some may prove to be more complex and costly;
- May result in significant payroll increases, especially if your business is dependent on part-time, temporary or seasonal workers;
- Increased labour costs, not only as minimum wage increases and longer leaves of absence are applied, but also that of the vendors and suppliers you rely on as they may increase their pricing;
- Upward pressure on low-end wage scale;
- imitations to flexibility and use of independent contractors;
- Greater penalties and more defence litigation;
- Ministry of Labour moving towards frequent inspections, more blitzes, enforcement and fines.
Don’t be caught off guard, or feel overwhelmed!
Engage HR assistance through S+C Partners to ensure compliance, and limit your exposure, yet ensure you aren’t unwittingly exceeding requirements.
For more information on this matter and any other HR related items, please don’t hesitate to contact our Human Resource Director, Dinah Bailey by email: Dinah.Bailey@scpllp.com or call direct: 905-593-1016.