hrreporter.com
Feb 13, 2018

Bill 148: More than just changes to the minimum wage

Other important changes to the Ontario Employment Standards Act, 2000
Employment standards, legislation
Beginning on April 1, 2018, employers in Ontario will no longer be able to pay workers performing the same work a different rate due to their employment status (because they are part-time, temporary, seasonal, casual or even agency workers). [photo]REUTERS/Mark Blinch [/photo]

By Brian Kreissl

With apologies to readers in other provinces and in federally regulated industries, there has been a lot of fanfare here in Ontario over Bill 148, the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, 2017. This is the piece of legislation that increased the minimum wage in Ontario to $14 per hour on Jan. 1, 2018, and $15 an hour on Jan. 1, 2019.

Depending on who you ask, this change was either long overdue, a way to help combat poverty among low-income earners and likely to result in greater efficiencies, more loyal workers and an increase in spending power with a resultant economic boost, or something that will result in higher prices, lost jobs, problems for small businesses and a less competitive business environment in the province.

But in spite of the debate over the minimum wage, Bill 148 brought about other significant changes to the Employment Standards Act, 2000 that we aren’t hearing so much about. Changes to the Labour Relations Act as a result of Bill 148 got even less press. Therefore, I decided to talk about some of these changes below and in next week’s post.

Employment Standards Act, 2000 changes

Bill 148 increased vacation leave entitlements to three weeks for those with five or more years of service. It also increased vacation pay for those workers to six per cent from the current four per cent.

The legislation introduced a new leave for child death and increased the length of crime-related child disappearance leave to up to 104 weeks. It added new domestic/sexual violence and critical illness leaves and increased parental leave entitlements to 61 weeks for birth mothers who take maternity leave and 63 weeks for other parents.

The bill also removed the 50-employee threshold for entitlement to personal emergency leave, provided that two of the 10 days under this leave must be paid and dispensed with the requirement to provide a doctor’s note. Entitlement to family medical leave has now been extended to 28 weeks within a 52 week period.

Calculation of statutory holiday pay has been changed and is now based on the number of days actually worked in the pay period immediately preceding the holiday. Employees who work the holiday and receive a substitute day off must now be provided with written notice of the date the substitute holiday will be provided.

Beginning on April 1, 2018, employers in Ontario will no longer be able to pay workers performing the same work a different rate due to their employment status (because they are part-time, temporary, seasonal, casual or even agency workers). However, there are exceptions such as seniority, merit and productivity levels.

New penalties have been introduced as a result of the legislation. These include a new offence for misclassifying workers and a provision authorizing the director of employment standards to “name and shame” non-compliant employers.

The legislation introduces new rights and benefits for employees who work on-call or have their regular shifts cancelled on short notice. It also provides employees with three months service the right to request schedule or work location changes (although employers don’t have to approve such requests, they are required to provide written reasons for the refusal). However, these changes don’t come into force until January 1, 2019.

Helping employers remain compliant

Employers in Ontario requiring additional assistance in complying with the Employment Standards Act, 2000 and the Bill 148 changes specifically have a number of different resources they can refer to. Thomson Reuters has several publications that can help including the Ontario Employment Standards Act: Quick Reference - 2018 Edition, by Eric Roher and Maciej Lipinski.

This Quick Reference includes the full text of the act and associated regulations, along with commentary on complying with the legislation — including the changes brought about as a result of Bill 148.

Next week, I will cover the key changes to the Ontario Labour Relations Act as a result of Bill 148. These are important not only for unionized employers, but also to those that could potentially become unionized.

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