Employment and Labour Law Reform Bill Passes Second Reading

In addition, the Ontario Government will seek public input on occupations currently exempted from the Employment Standards Act, 2000.

Bill 148, the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, 2017 has passed Second Reading and is now one step closer to becoming law. Bill 148 proposes significant changes to Ontario’s Employment Standards Act, 2000 (“ESA”) and Labour Relations Act, 1995(“LRA”).  As we recently reported, Bill 148 underwent some changes this past summer at the Committee Stage. Most significant perhaps, was the addition of a standalone Domestic or Sexual Violence Leave under the ESA which would allow employees with a least 13 weeks of service to take up to 17 weeks of unpaid leaveper calendar year.

As a means to provide flexibility to employees, the 17 weeks of leave is split into two parts:

  • Up to 10 days of the leave can be taken a day (or partial day) at a time for things such as appointments; and
  • Up to 15 weeks (or partial weeks) of leave can be taken for matters that may require more time.

The days and weeks of Domestic or Sexual Violence Leave do not have to be taken continuously and any partial day or week of leave taken, can be deemed as a full day or week of leave by the employer.The Standing Committee also lengthened the amount of pregnancy and parental leave that an employee may take under the ESA. These proposed changes would entitle employees to the following:

  • An increase from 6 weeks to 12 weeks of leave for employees who suffer a still-birth or miscarriage; and
  • An additional 26 weeks of parental leave.

This 6 month extension of parental leave corresponds with the Federal Government’s changes to the Employment Insurance regime that would extend maternity leave entitlement from 12 months to 18 months. Some of the other changes that the Standing Committee made to Bill 148 include:

  • additional record keeping requirements for employers and temporary help agencies;
  • clarification that the paid emergency leave days will be paid at straight time and not at an overtime or shift premium rate;
  • an exemption for weather-dependent businesses from the mandatory 3 hours of pay when shifts are cancelled on less than 48 hours’ notice;
  • an exemption for emergencies or threats to public safety from the right to refuse work on less than 96 hours’ notice; and
  • allowing employers to continue substituting a day off for work on a public holiday, but requiring employers to provide employees with a written statement outlining the date that will be substituted for the public holiday worked.

With respect to the LRA, the Standing Committee removed the broad power Bill 148 would have given to the Ontario Labour Relations Board to review and change the structure of bargaining units that it deemed as no longer appropriate.

Aside from the above noted changes, the other major reforms proposed by Bill 148, which we wrote about here, such as the minimum wage increase, paid emergency leave and equal pay for part-time, contract and temporary employees remain unchanged after Second Reading and are one step closer to being passed.

In addition to the changes to Bill 148, the Government of Ontario has also recently announced its intention to hold public consultations which will focus on eight occupations currently exempt from employment standards. These occupations include:

  • Architects
  • Domestic Workers
  • Homemakers
  • IT Professionals
  • Managerial and Supervisory Employees
  • Pharmacists
  • Residential Building Superintendents, Janitors and Caretakers
  • Residential Care Workers

Employers are encouraged to provide input on these exempted occupations here, which will be accepted by the government until December 1, 2017.

We will provide further updates on the status and content of Bill 148 and other proposed changes as they are announced. In the interim, if you have any questions about the Fair Workplace, Better Jobs Act, 2017 and how it will impact your workplace, do not hesitate to contact Tim LawsonMatthew Demeo or any lawyer in our Ontario Labour and Employment Law group.

Employment Standards labour relations



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