Ontario’s Legislation to Create Fair Workplaces and Better Jobs Receives Royal Assent
Protections Against Employee Misclassification and Changes to the Occupational Health & Safety Act Come Into Effect
Ontario’s landmark Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, 2017, received Royal Assent today. The broad ranging Act raises the minimum wage, ensures more fairness for part-time and contract workers, and expands personal emergency leave. The minimum wage will increase to $14 an hour on January 1, 2018, and to $15 an hour on January 1, 2019.
Key provisions of the legislation that are now in effect include:
- Protection Against Employee Misclassification: The Employment Standards Act, 2000, now expressly prohibits employers from misclassifying employees as “independent contractors.” This is intended to address cases where employers improperly treat their employees as if they are self-employed and not entitled to the protections of the ESA. In the event of a dispute, the employer would be responsible for proving that the individual is not an employee.
- Changes to the Occupational Health and Safety Act: The Act now prevents employers from requiring a worker to wear footwear with an elevated heel, for example, high heels, at work, unless such footwear is required for the worker’s safety.
Provisions that come into effect on December 3, 2017, include:
- Critical Illness Leave: An employee will be entitled to take up to 17 weeks of leave in a 52 week period to provide care or support to a critically ill adult family member.
- Parental Leave: The length of parental leave will increase; this leave was up to 35 weeks long if the employee took pregnancy leave, and 37 weeks otherwise. As of December 3, 2017, it can be up to 61 weeks if the employee takes pregnancy leave, and up to 63 weeks otherwise.
The Critical Illness Leave and Parental Leave changes were made to align with federal changes to Employment Insurance.
Employers will be required to pay casual, part-time, temporary and seasonal employees the same rate as full-time, permanent employees when doing the same job. This will also apply for temporary help agency employees doing the same job as permanent employees at the company they are assigned to. These provisions will come into effect on April 1, 2018.
Ontario’s plan to create fairness and opportunity during this period of rapid economic change includes raising the minimum wage, free tuition for hundreds of thousands of students, easier access to affordable child care, and free prescription drugs for everyone under 25 through the biggest expansion of medicare in a generation.
- The Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, 2017 responds to the final report of the Changing Workplaces Review. It was the first-ever independent review of both the Employment Standards Act, 2000 and Labour Relations Act, 1995.
- The report estimated that more than 30 per cent of Ontario workers were in precarious work in 2014. In 2016, the median hourly wage was $13.00 for part-time workers and $24.73 for full-time workers. Over the past 30 years, part-time work has grown to represent nearly 20 per cent of total employment.
- Studies show that a higher minimum wage results in less employee turnover, which increases business productivity.