Business-friendly amendments change powers of investigating officers and place more obligations on complainants
On Nov. 29, 2010, the Ontario government proclaimed the Open for Business Act. The new act is designed to streamline the relationships between the provincial government and businesses in the province in order to make operating businesses a little smoother. The act amends several pieces of Ontario legislation, including the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA) by implementing changes to the employment standards claim process. The changes come into effect on Jan. 19, 2011.
The new amendments to the ESA are designed to reduce a backlog of employment standards complaints by encouraging early resolution for as many as possible and making the process quicker.
The amendments stipulate that complainants must complete certain steps before the complaint is assigned to an Employment Standards Officer, a change from the previous process where an officer was assigned to investigate immediately. Complainants must inform their employer of the problem that led to the complaint and report to the Director of Employment Standards that they have done so. In addition, complainants must provide the director with any evidence requested. If these steps aren’t taken within six months, the complaint will be refused.
The amendments are also changing the powers of Employment Standards Officers so they can help settle complaints if they consider it possible. If the complaint is resolved with the help of an officer, the matter is terminated unless a legal prosecution is underway.
Employment Standards Officers will now also have the power to decide complaints if one of the parties involved doesn’t meet certain obligations. Currently, officers can set a decision-making meeting and request relevant documents with 15 days written notice. The amendments will allow officers to rule on the complaint based on their investigation to that point if their requests aren’t met or a party fails to show up to the meeting.