many of the changes listed below have been repealed under the PC government's making ontario open for business act. please refer to this article for more up-to-date information.

If you live in Ontario, no doubt you’ve heard about Bill 148, or the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, 2017, Ontario’s largest labour bill in over a decade. Though the jump to a $14 minimum wage has claimed the most headlines, there’s a lot more to the bill than you might realize. Here are some of the most notable changes Ontarian workers should take note of.


minimum wage increase

The first day of 2018 saw the minimum wage in Ontario jump to $14, a 20% increase from the previous minimum of $11.60. The wage increase has been met with a conflicted response, simultaneously hailed as a boon and a plight to the economy, depending on who you ask. (Though it’s worth noting a group of 53 respected  Canadian economists signed a letter publically supporting the wage increase, saying it will spur more spending, which offsets job loss.) The minimum wage will go up again in 2019, to reach the long-discussed $15 minimum wage.

small business tax rate cut

The provincial corporate tax rate has been lowered for small businesses, dropping to 3.5% from 4.5%. This change is intended provide support for small business and help offset the impact of the minimum wage increase so it doesn’t disproportionately impact small businesses.

changes to paid vacation and holiday pay

Employees who have been with their employer for at least 5 years are now entitled to 3 weeks of vacation, up from 2 weeks. Employees with less than 5 years of seniority still receive a minimum of 2 weeks. A new formula will also be used to calculate holiday pay: employers must use the employee’s average pay from the previous period (total pay divided by days worked) to calculate holiday pay.

notice for temporary workers

When on an assignment slated to last more than 3 months, temporary workers must be given at least 1 weeks’ notice if the assignment ends early. If employees do not receive adequate notice, they are entitled to pay in lieu of notice.

new scheduling rules

There are a variety of new scheduling rules that employers must comply with. Among them:

  • Employees have the right to request changes to their schedule or location after 3 months of employment without fear of retribution
  • Employees can refuse shifts without fear of repercussions, if shifts are assigned with less than 96 hours’ notice
  • Employers must keep records of the dates and times employees are scheduled to work, as well as any schedule changes

minimum 3 hours of pay

If an employee regularly works more than 3 hours per day, but shows up for work and receives less than 3 hours of work, they are required to be paid for at least 3 hours. Same goes for shifts cancelled with less than 48 hours’ notice. If an employer fails to provide notice, an employee must be paid for 3 hours of work for the cancelled shift. Finally, employers must pay all on-call workers for at least 3 hours of work for every 24 hour period they’re required to be on-call, regardless of whether they actually work. There are some notable exceptions where the 3 hour minimum will not be enforced such as in cases of extreme weather, power outages, fires or similar causes out of employers’ control.

stricter classification of independent contractors

Employers are prohibited from ‘misclassifying’ employees as independent contractors if they aren’t, and will be subject to fines and prosecution if they violate these rules. If there’s a dispute, the onus is on employers to prove that the worker is not an employee.

sick notes are banned

Employers are no longer permitted to ask for a doctor’s note when employees call in sick. Why would this be made into law? The hassle of obtaining a note often means sick employees go into work, when they should be home resting and avoiding spreading contagious illnesses like colds and the flu. Also, there’s hope that eliminating sick notes will free up doctors’ time, allowing them to focus on patients in need of care, rather than issuing paperwork for people with minor illnesses like colds, who don't actually require treatment.

more personal leave

All companies must now offer paid personal emergency leave. Previously, only companies with more than 50 employees had to do so. Workers are entitled to 10 personal emergency days per year, the first 2 of which must be paid. Employees are also entitled to new or increased leaves related to a sexual or domestic assault, family medical issues, pregnancy leave following miscarriage or stillbirth, and a child’s death or disappearance, among others.

equal pay for equal work

Contract, temporary, seasonal and part-time workers are now entitled to the same pay rate as full-timers if they’re doing ‘substantially similar’ work. There will be exceptions for seniority, merit, quantity or quality of work, or other ‘objective factors.’ Workers can also now request a review of their pay, if they suspect they’re being underpaid compared to similar employees. If a discrepancy is found, employers must adjust the employee’s pay rate or issue a written letter explaining why they disagree a change is needed. The legislation also states employers can’t cut the higher paid employee’s pay rate in order to ensure that wages are equal.

no mandatory high heels

The bill blocks employers from making high heels a mandatory part of workplace dress codes. Exceptions include if they’re required for safety reasons or for those in the entertainment industry.

These are just some of the more notable changes included in the bill and is by no means a comprehensive list. To view the bill in its entirety, visit the province of Ontario’s website, which outlines changes the bill is bringing forth in more detail, in particular, changes employers are required to make to be compliant, as well as any exceptions to the above changes. 

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