Ontario’s legislature has finished the second reading of “The Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act” which contains certain amendments to the Employment Standards Act (“ESA”). This means that the proposed law will go to a committee of Members of Provincial Parliament to be studied again, possibly amended again, and finally passed.
The government in Ontario has stated its intention to have the law passed by January 1, 2018. If they are are going to give employers some lead time to finalize the law, it will likely be passed and given Royal Assent soon.
Here is an updated list of some relevant proposals to change the ESA:
- Minimum wage will go to $14 an hour in 2018, $15 an hour in 2019, and will continue to go up with inflation each October;
- Employees can request to changes their schedule, and employers have to give reasons for their decision;
- When a scheduled shift is cancelled with less than 48 hours notice, an employee must be paid 3 hours (except in bad weather);
- Employees can refuse to work if they were not scheduled with at least 4 days/96 hours’ notice, except in emergencies;
- Public holiday pay calculations will change slightly (it will be based on the number of days actually worked in the pay period before the holiday);
- After 5 years of work, an employee will be entitled to 3 weeks (6%) of paid vacation;
- Full-time and part-time employees will be entitled to equal pay for performing the same work, unless the difference in pay based on certain acceptable grounds. There will be a new definition of “seniority system”, which is considered an acceptable ground (it will allow difference in pay based on accumulated number of hours worked);
- Penalties for breaching the ESA will increase, and the government will hire more enforcement officers for employees to contact;
- Employers will be forced to keep more detailed records on their employees, including dates and times scheduled to work, changes to an on-call schedule, dates and times of actual work, cancellations of scheduled work, amount of vacation pay earned, and documents related to some leaves of absence;
- Such records will have to be kept for 5 years (not 3 years);
- There will be a new approved statutory leave of absence called Domestic or Sexual Violence Leave, which is an unpaid leave given an employee who has requested the leave (where they or their child has been the victim of threats of or actual domestic or sexual violence) and has worked at least 13 weeks. Upon their return, they must be given their same job back. The maximum time for the leave will be 15 weeks.
- Employers will have to provide their employees with another new unpaid leave of absence for the death of an employee’s child, for up to 104 weeks;
- The existing Personal Emergency Leave will be updated to apply to every employee in Ontario. If an employee takes a personal emergency leave, the first 2 days of the leave must be paid by the Employer. No medical notes can be requested for this personal emergency leave;
- Pregnancy leave will change to allow for a leave of absence due to a miscarriage from 6 weeks to 12 weeks;
- Parental leave will jump from 35 to 61 (or 63) weeks (depending on whether a pregnancy leave was taken);
- Family medical leave (to care for a dying relative) will change to up to 27 weeks in a 52-week period.
- Crime-related child disappearance leave will also increase to 104 weeks.
The government has indicated it plans to inspect 1 in 10 workplaces in Ontario. Is your office ready for these changes? Let’s talk if you think it isn’t.