The Ontario government has implemented the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, 2017 which makes a number of changes to the Employment Standards Act, 2000, the Labour Relations Act, 1995, and the Occupational Health and Safety Act.
This Act was created in order to generate more opportunity and job security. The Act includes changes to minimum wage, equal pay for casual, part-time, temporary and seasonal employees, as well as vacation and personal emergency leave.
Minimum wage workers in Ontario will be earning 31.5% more by 2019 for doing the same jobs they are today. Effective January 1, 2018, the general minimum wage increased to $14 per hour. Further to this, minimum wage will rise to $15 per hour effective January 1, 2019.
Many business owners are concerned about how these significant increases will impact their businesses; more specifically, small business owners are most vulnerable to these increases as they are less likely to have the financial resources on hand to withstand any hit to profitability.
As well, sharp concerns have been raised from independent contractors and those in the food service industry, who argue the restructurings will hurt their bottom lines and ultimately slow job growth. According to Restaurants Canada, the new minimum wage laws will cost an additional $47,000 per year, which would wipe out the profit margin of the average restaurant in Ontario.
Equal pay for casual, part-time, temporary and seasonal employees
Effective April 1, 2018, it will be mandatory for employers to pay casual, part-time, temporary and seasonal employees the same rate of pay as full-time/permanent employees. Any employee that falls into one of the aforementioned categories, will be permitted to request a review of their rate of pay if they believe they are not receiving comparable pay to their full-time/permanent colleagues who perform largely the same work.
Employers will be exempt from the new equal pay for equal work rules for part-time, temporary, casual and seasonal employees, if the wage difference is based on: a seniority or merit system, or systems that measure earnings by quantity or quality of production. Other factors (i.e. sex and employment status) will not qualify as an exception.
Under the legislation, employees will be entitled to three weeks of paid vacation after five years with the same employer. These changes came into effect January 1, 2018.
Personal emergency leave
As it is now, many workplaces with 50+ employees allow their employees to take up to 10 days of unpaid, job-protected leave, each calendar year due to illness, injury and other emergencies. Effective January 1, 2018, legislation will require all employers to give their employees 10 personal emergency leave days per calendar year, including two paid days if the employee has been employed longer than one week.
Further to this, an employee who has been employed for at least 13 consecutive weeks will be entitled to up to 10 individual days of leave and up to 15 weeks of leave if the employee or their child experiences domestic or sexual violence or the threat of domestic or sexual violence. The first five days of leave will be paid, the rest will be unpaid.
Under the new Act, employees are entitled to request a schedule or location change once they have been employed for three months, without fear of being penalized, as well as the right to refuse shifts if their employer asks them to work with less than 96 hours’ notice.
In these cases, even if an employee works less than three hours, employers will also be required to pay wages to employees for three hours of work if the employee:
- Regularly works more than three hours a day
- Shows up for work and works less than three hours or not at all (for example, the shift is cut short)
- The shift is cancelled within 48 hours of the scheduled start time.
There is an exception for employees scheduled to be on-call who are either not called in to work or works less than three hours.
Employers will not be required to pay for a cancelled shift if they were unable to provide work due to causes beyond their control, such as: fire, extreme weather, power failure, or similar causes.