Recently, the Ontario government proposed new legislation designed to make work and holiday arrangements more flexible for employees, and to cut through some of the red tape for Ontario employers.
The government hopes to have the proposed bill passed into law before the end of December.
Here is a summary of the changes that were proposed:
•job protection for people on parental leave will be extended to 52 weeks;
•employees will have up to 10 unpaid days off for family crises;
•pregnancy leave provisions would be modified to be more flexible (currently, it must start no earlier than 17 weeks before the due date. With the new proposal, it would start at the time of a live birth even if that was more than 17 weeks before the due date);
•employees would keep the right to refuse to work more than 48 hours at a time and would still receive overtime after 44 hours;
•new minimum, mandatory daily and weekly rest periods (11 consecutive hours per day, 24 in every seven days or 48 in every 14 days) would be protected by law for the first time;
•more flexibility for employees to schedule hours of work, with agreement of employer (such as compressed work weeks: for instance, four 10-hour days instead of five eight-hour days);
•employees could take time off instead of overtime pay, if the employer agrees;
•employees would have more flexibility to schedule vacation time (at their request and with the agreement of their employer) such as scheduling one day at a time. The employer would still be required to schedule vacations in blocks of at least a week unless the employee agrees otherwise;
•all part-time employees would be eligible for public holiday time off with pay;
•to protect employees against employers who break the law, the government proposes to hire more enforcement staff, to increase their powers and to raise fines up to 10 times their current levels; and
•a committee, headed by a neutral chair, will consider and report on whether special employment standards are needed for the garment industry.
•more flexibility to make work-hour arrangements directly with employees to suit business needs, without government interference and red tape;
•clearer, simpler wording in the Act to make it more understandable and to make compliance easier;
•overtime could be averaged over a period not to exceed four weeks by agreement between the employee and the employer, without the need for a government permit;
•elimination of the cumbersome Ministry of Labour permit system for employees working excess hours;
•government permission would no longer be required for most flexible vacation arrangements agreed to with employees;
•the use of direct deposit of wages would be legalized except where the employee has no reasonable access to a financial institution;
•employers would no longer be required to obtain MOL permits for homeworkers - but would be required to keep more information in the homeworker register for a minimum of three years;
•employers no longer would be required to keep all records for inspection in Ontario - but would be required to produce them within a time specified by an Employment Standards Officer.
For more information about the proposed changes, visit http://www.gov.on.ca/LAB/ann/00-69f2e.htm.