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New Making Ontario Open for Business Act to Reform Employment and Labour Laws

Making Ontario Open for Business

On October 23, 2018, Ontario’s recently elected Progressive Conservative government announced the introduction of Bill 47, Making Ontario Open for Business Act, 2018.  If passed by the legislature, the new law would repeal much of the previous Liberal government’s controversial Bill 148, the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, 2017.  The new government has stated that the proposed legislation would boost job growth and investment in the province by reducing the regulatory burdens that Bill 148 placed on Ontario employers.

Some of the more significant changes proposed include the following amendments to the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (the “ESA”):

  • Maintaining Ontario’s current minimum wage at $14 per hour until at least October 2020, to be followed by increases tied to inflation;
  • Replacing current personal emergency leave entitlements by providing employees the right to take only eight annual unpaid leave days, with specifically three days for personal illness, two for bereavement and three for “family responsibilities”;
  • Repealing the current provision prohibiting employers from requiring an employee to provide a medical note to establish an entitlement to personal emergency leave;
  • Repealing equal pay for equal work on the basis of employment status (part-time, casual and temporary) and assignment employee status (temporary help agency status) but maintaining the requirement for equal pay on the basis of sex;
  • Repealing provisions that were to come into force on January 1, 2019, including but not limited to, on-call pay, shift cancellation pay, the right to request changes to schedule or work location after an employee has been employed for at least three months, and the right to refuse scheduling changes without sufficient notice;
  • Repealing the averaging public holiday pay formula prescribed by Bill 148 and returning to the previous prorating public holiday pay formula; and
  • Repealing the reverse onus requirement for the employer to prove that an individual is not an employee where there is a dispute over whether or not the individual has been misclassified as a contractor.

Under Bill 47, the government would preserve the right of employees to receive three weeks of paid vacation after five years’ service, and would maintain current leave provisions for cases of domestic and sexual violence affecting an employee or an employee’s child.

The provincial government has also proposed the following changes to the Labour Relations Act, 1995 (the “LRA”):

  • Repealing card-based certification for workers in the home care industry, building services, and temporary help agencies;
  • Repealing rules that required an employer to give their employees’ personal information to a union where the union had 20% support;
  • Reinstating the pre-Bill 148 test for the Ontario Labour Relations Board (the “OLRB”) to certify a union as remedy for employer unfair labour practices during an organizing campaign;
  • Empowering the OLRB to review the structure of bargaining units whether the existing bargaining units are no longer appropriate for collective bargaining; and
  • Reinstituting the employee’s right to reinstatement within six months following the start of a strike or lock-out.

Bill 47 also seeks to decrease the fines against organizations and individuals under the ESA and the LRA.

If passed, Bill 47 would change Ontario’s skilled trades and apprenticeship system.  The legislation would implement a model of one-to-one journeyperson-to-apprentice ratio, which would simplify how employers can hire and oversee apprentices.  Bill 47 also proposes to wind down the Ontario College of Trades through an orderly transition.

Although Bill 47 is not yet law, it is expected that most of the changes will proceed quickly through the legislature given the majority government.  We encourage employers to start considering how the proposed changes may impact their business and affect their workplace policies. We will monitor the legislation and provide further updates as they become available.

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