Ontario Changes Employment Law (again)
On November 21, 2018, Bill 47, the Making Ontario Open for Business Act, 2018, came into force, reversing many of the changes to labour and employment law put in place last year in Bill 148 by the previous government.
Bill 47 has resulted in big changes to the Employment Standards Act, 2000 and Labour Relations Act, affecting both non-unionized and unionized workplaces in Ontario. In addition, it has revised apprenticeship rules under the Ontario College of Trades and Apprenticeship Act.
The most important changes to the Employment Standards Act include:
- Freezing the Minimum Wage – The minimum wage will stay at $14 / hour, rather than going up to $15 / hour on January 1, 2019. Further increases will start in October, 2020 and be tied to the rate of inflation;
- New Rules for Leave Days – Bill 47 has replaced the right to receive 10 Personal Emergency Leave days, of which two must be paid, with eight unpaid annual leave days consisting of three days for personal illness, two bereavement days and three “family responsibility” days;
- Rolling Back Equal Pay for Equal Work – Bill 47 has reversed the prohibition on employers differentiating pay on the basis of employment status (part-time, casual, and temporary). It does not change the law requiring equal pay on the basis of sex; and
- Changes to Scheduling Rights – Bill 148 put in place a number of provisions extending rights to shift workers. These included the right to request changes in a work schedule, the right to a minimum of three hours of pay when shifts are cancelled with less than 48 hours’ notice, mandatory pay for ‘on call’ employees, and the right to refuse a shift when less than 96 hours’ notice was given. Bill 47 has repealed these provisions.
Previous changes of the Labour Relations Act making it easier for employees to unionize have also been reversed, including:
- Reduced Card-Based Certification – The previous government had instituted card-based certification for employees in home care, building services, and temporary help agencies giving them the right to vote to unionize in a secret ballot. Bill 47 has taken this away;
- No Requirement to Disclose Employee Lists – Bill 148 had given unions involved in organizing campaigns the right to obtain a list of contact information for employees in a workplace if the union could prove it had the support of at least 20% of employees in a proposed bargaining unit. Bill 47 has removed this right;
- Right to Change Bargaining Units Revoked – Section 15.1 of the Labour Relations Act gave the Labour Relations Board the power to review and make changes to the makeup of bargaining units in certain circumstances. Bill 47 has struck out this provision.
However, a number of the changes to employee rights in Bill 148 have been preserved. These include the extension of the right to unpaid leaves including:
- pregnancy/parental leave (to a total of 18 months);
- family medical leave (to 28 weeks);
- Creation of critical illness leave, includes ability to take leave to care for a critically ill adult; and
- Creation of child death leave.
Both Bill 148 and Bill 47 made comprehensive and wide-ranging changes to workplace law in Ontario.