ontario labour laws: what will change under the PC government?

When the Ontario progressive conservatives were elected in June 2018, one of their most significant campaign promises was to repeal the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, also known as Bill 148. That promise has now been put into action with the Making Ontario Open for Business Act, or Bill 47. Several business organizations have welcomed the change. On the opposite end of the spectrum, many workers and labour groups are decrying the changes.

The exact date these changes will go into effect is yet to be determined, but the Bill has been tabled. Since the PC government has a very solid majority, it’s only a matter of time until the law is passed and put into effect.

ontario labour laws PC government

why is bill 148 being rolled back?

The current progressive conservative government claims the requirements introduced in Bill 148 were hurting Ontario’s ability to attract businesses, and putting undue pressure on small business owners, which in turn hurts workers when jobs disappear. Despite these claims, Ontario’s unemployment rate has largely remained steady since Bill 148 was introduced. Though the number of jobs declined in January 2018 in the immediate aftermath of Bill 148 taking effect, in the months since the market has rebounded and outpaced growth prior to Bill 148. In fact, unemployment in Ontario reached an 18-year low in July 2018, 6 months after Bill 148 went into effect.

Here’s what you need to know about the state of Ontario’s labour laws going forward.

the minimum wage will be frozen until 2020

Under the previous Liberal government, the plan was to increase the minimum wage in Ontario to $15 per hour on January 1st 2019. That increase is no longer happening, and the current minimum wage of $14 will be frozen for 33 months, or until at least 2020. Increases from that point on will be tied to inflation, though there are few details on exactly how this will be calculated. There are no plans to reverse the most recent minimum wage bump, which saw the minimum wage increase from $11.60 to $14 on January first of this year.

no more paid sick days

Under the Liberal legislation, all workers in Ontario were entitled to 2 paid sick days. The PCs have scrapped this requirement. Businesses will no longer be required to offer any paid time off to sick employees. However, businesses will be required to offer unpaid time off, up to a total of 8 days. 3 days will be allotted for sick days, 2 days for bereavement and 3 personal days are all mandated and all unpaid. The previous legislation offered up 10 personal days total, 2 paid and 8 unpaid.

sick notes are reinstated

Under the previous bill, employers were not allowed to ask for sick notes from a doctor, to reduce strain on the healthcare system and unnecessary spread of minor contagious illnesses. The new bill permits employers to ask for sick notes from a doctor once again. 

equal pay for equal work is abolished

Bill 148 required employers to pay part-time, casual and temporary workers the same rate as full-time workers if the work they were performing was the same or substantially similar. This provision was known as equal pay for equal work. Under the Making Ontario Open for Business Act, it will be scrapped.

new union rules have been reversed

The new bill put forth by the PCs also introduces changes to the Labour Relations Act. The previous Liberal bill had made it easier for workers in various sectors to join a union. The PC bill repeals those updates, removing card-based union certification from industries including temporary help, building services, home care and community services. This will mean a return to secret ballot voting. Employers will also no longer be required to provide unions with access to employee lists and contact information in cases where they can demonstrate 20% support among employees. 40% support will be required, as was the case prior to Bill 148.

changes to skilled trades regulations

The Making Ontario Open for Business Act introduces a new model for governing skilled trade professions, designed to address the system’s backlog. It will scrap the Ontario College of Trades which has regulated apprenticeships in Ontario since 2009. The plan is to introduce a new method of regulating skilled trades jobs and apprenticeships in early 2019. According to the Ford government, the high demand for skilled trades professionals has led to barriers for employers, as they can’t access the workers they need due to the backlog and red tape. The apprentice to journeyperson ratio will also be relaxed, allowing for a 1:1 ratio. This will make it easier for businesses to hire apprentices, and for those apprentices to become certified.

handling employer-employee disputes

In cases where employee misclassification is an issue, the onus will no longer be on employers to prove that the person who raised the dispute is not an employee. Penalties for violations will also be decreased for businesses.

scheduling changes have been reversed

The Making Ontario Open for Business Act reverses many of the scheduling rules established under Bill 148, including:

  • Employees are able to refuse shifts, without fear of repercussions, if they are given less than 96 hours’ notice 
  • Employees are able to request changes to their schedule or location if they have been employed for 3 months or more
  • 3 hours pay for employees who are required to be on-call but are not called in
  • 3 hours pay for a shift that’s cancelled less than 48 hours before the shift starts

new holiday pay calculations scrapped

Bill 148 changed the way holiday pay was calculated, requiring employers to divide wages earned in the period prior to the holiday by the number of days worked. The new bill scraps this requirement in favour of returning to the previous method of calculating holiday pay.

what will be staying the same

Though the vast majority of the changes introduced under Bill 148 are being repealed, the PC government has elected to keep a few of the changes. They are:

  • Leave granted for domestic or sexual violence. Employees are granted up to 15 weeks of total leave if they or their child experience domestic or sexual violence.
  • Vacation entitlement for employees with 5 years of experience with their employer. Employees with 5+ years of tenure with their current employer will be entitled to 3 weeks of paid vacation time.
  • Employers are required to pay employees for a minimum of 3 hours of work if they show up for work and their shift is cancelled or reduced.

These are just some of the noteworthy changes put forth in the tabled bill and is by no means a comprehensive list. Once the bill is passed, more details on exact dates will be provided, and a comprehensive list of changes will be made available on the province of Ontario's website

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