In early 2018, Bill 148, the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, 2017, introduced a variety of new protections for workers in Ontario. However, on November 21, 2018, the Ontario Provincial Government repealed most protections introduced under Bill 148 by passing Bill 47, Making Ontario Open for Business Act, 2018.
Under Bill 47, the Labour Relations Act, 1995 (the “LRA”) and Employment Standards Act, 2000 (the “ESA”) have undergone significant changes. Changes to the LRA came into force on November 21, 2018 and changes to the ESA became effective on January 1, 2019.
Key changes effective as of January 1, 2019 are as follows:
- Minimum Wage –
- Under Bill 148, Ontario’s minimum wage was scheduled to increase from $14/hour to $15/hour on January 1, 2019. Under Bill 47, minimum wage will remain set at $14/hour until annual inflationary adjustments restart on October 1, 2020.
- Scheduling and On Call – Bill 148 entitled employees to a minimum of three hours’ pay when their scheduled shift or on-call shift was cancelled within 48 hours of its scheduled start time. Bill 47 repealed this change but continues to afford employees a minimum of three hours’ pay when their shifts are cut short and last less than three hours.
- Misclassification – Bill 148 prohibited misclassifying an employee as an independent contractor (a type of worker who lacks protection under the ESA). Furthermore, Bill 148 placed the onus upon an employer to establish that a worker was an independent contractor.Bill 47 continues to prohibit misclassifying employees as independent contractors, but now shifts the onus to a worker to establish that they are an employee.
- Equal Pay for Equal Work – Bill 148 introduced equal pay for equal work by prohibiting pay differentials based on employment status (e.g. part-time vs. full-time; temporary vs. indefinite) or being hired through a temporary help agency. Bill 47 repealed the changes introduced under Bill 148 but continues to prohibit pay differentials on the basis of sex.
- Personal Emergency Leave – Bill 148 afforded workers ten personal emergency leave days (the first two of which were paid), and prohibited employers from requesting doctors’ notes. Under Bill 47, personal emergency leave days have been replaced with 3 sick leave days, 3 family responsibility leave days, and 2 bereavement leave days, all of which are unpaid. Furthermore, employers are now permitted to request doctors’ notes.
- Penalties for ESA Contraventions – Bill 148 increased the maximum administrative penalties for contravening the ESA. Pursuant to Bill 47, maximum penalties have reverted to pre-bill 148 amounts ($250, $500, and $1000).
Given the many changes introduced under Bill 47, employers should review their workplace policies and employment contracts to ensure that they comply with new employment standards. Furthermore, employers in non-unionized workplaces who previously implemented entitlements afforded by Bill 148 should seek legal advice before reverting to lower entitlements permitted under Bill 47; regardless of compliance with Bill 47, an employer who introduces fundamental changes to an employee’s job may be subject to a constructive dismissal claim.