Employers Face Tougher Employment Standards Act
On June 1, 2017, the Ontario government introduced Bill 148, which is entitled the “Fair Workplaces Better Employers Jobs Act, 2017”. If passed, Bill 148 will significantly enhance workers’ rights in Ontario and, in turn, reshape the Province’s employment law landscape. Bill 148 has received a Second Reading and it is expected that the government will now move quickly to pass the bill into law.
Bill 148 will amend both the Employment Standards Act under the Act for, among other things, unpaid wages. (“ESA” or the “Act”) and the Labour Relations Act. This bulletin will only address the proposed amends to the ESA. A Major Increase to the Minimum Wage: The Leave: Bill 148 will introduce a new entitlement to amendments will increase the general minimum wage in Ontario from $11.60 per hour to $14.00 per hour as of January 1, 2018, and then to $15.00 per hour as of January 1, 2018, and then to $15.00 per hour as of January 1, 2019.
Extended Pregnancy and Parental Leave:
Pregnancy leave will be extended from six weeks to 12 weeks for an employee who has had a miscarriage. The length of parental leave will be extended by 26 weeks: from 35 weeks to 61 weeks for employees who have taken Pregnancy Leave, and from 37 weeks to 63 weeks for employees who have not.
Employers will be prohibited from asking for sick notes from employees unless they have been off work for 10 days or more due to sickness.
Equal Pay for Equal Work:
Casual, part-time, temporary and seasonal workers will be entitled to the same rate of pay given to full-time employees when they perform the same type of work for the same employer.
Penalties For “Misclassifying” Employees:
Employers will be prohibited from “misclassifying” employees as independent contractors and could be subject to prosecution and significant monetary penalties under the legislation for doing so (e.g., with the intent of avoiding the protections set out in the legislation).
Joint and Several Liability:
The new legislation will make it easier for employees to establish that two or more businesses should be jointly and severally liable under the Act for, among other things, unpaid wages. In addition, employees seeking a declaration of joint and several liability would no longer be required to prove that an employer intended to skirt the ESA.
Extended Personal Emergency Leave and Medical Leave:
With the changes happening coming in January, Bill 148 will introduce a new entitlement to job-protected, unpaid time off work for employees who have experienced domestic or sexual violence. The new legislation will also create an entitlement to a 104-week job-protected leave for any employee whose child dies or disappears in a crime related incident.
Paid Emergency Leave:
Bill 148 will require all week’s employers to provide 10 days of personal emergency leave to any employee with one week or more of service. Two of these days must be paid.
Given that the passing of Bill 148 into law appears to be imminent, employers must be prepared for the effects of the amendments. This includes reviewing and updating all company handbooks, manual, policies and procedures to ensure they are compliant with the ESA. Update: Many of the changes that Bill 148 made when it was passed in January 2018 are negated by the changes Bill 47 makes to the Employment Standards Act, 2000, effective January 1, 2019.