Impact of Bill 148 (Fair Workplaces Act) – Part 1

Part 1: Changes to Call-ins, Scheduling and Personal Emergency Leave Days and Doctor’s Notes

In this 3-part series I will explain the impact of various proposed Employment Standards legislation changes under “Bill 148”.

Call-Ins: Under the proposed changes, employees will have the right to refuse being called in to work with less than 96 hours (4 days) of notice.  This means that should a worker call in sick, or use a Personal Emergency Leave Day, the employer may find it quite difficult to replace the ill worker if the staff who could fill in refuse to do so under this new provision.

The employer has no recourse, and cannot discipline, threaten or intimidate a worker into accepting a call-in shift.  This could lead to service shortages or cancellations, and management being required to fill in to get work done. In some limited cases where there is a Union collective agreement in place, the terms of the Agreement could provide discipline for refusals.

Scheduling:  Under the proposed legislation, employees now have the right to formally request a permanent schedule or location change after three months of employment.  If the employer is able to grant the request, they must do so and give the employee written confirmation of the start date and duration of the change.

Should the employer be unable to grant the request, the denial must be in writing and contain the specific reasons why the request was denied. Care will need to be taken to ensure that any denial does not infringe on Human Rights or would subject the employer to harassment or wrongful dismissal claims.

Personal Emergency Leave Days: Currently, the Personal Emergency Leave Days (PELD) provision only applies to workplaces with more than 50 employees.  The employees are currently entitled to 10 unpaid days off to deal with things like hot water tanks blowing a gasket, car breakdown while traveling to work or the babysitter calling in sick.

The proposed change would allow all workers, regardless of the number of employees, to have these 10 days off.  In addition, two of these days will now be paid, leaving the other 8 as unpaid. The paid days off must be granted before the unpaid days off.

No Doctor’s Note: According to the Bill 148 legislation, “Employers retain the right to require evidence of entitlement to these days (off) but are not permitted to require a certificate from a qualified health practitioner.

This new provision means that until the employee has used all of their PELD entitlement, the employer is not able to ask for a Doctor’s note for one-day illnesses.  Doctor’s notes will only be required now for cases where the employee will be off work for more than a few days and/or will require some kind of workplace accommodation upon their return.

For the purposes of enforcing proper attendance at work, “evidence of entitlement” can include asking the employee to provide proof of the reason they missed work – i.e. a copy of the repair bill for their car.  If they are sick, they could provide you with a receipt for medicine purchased on the day of illness, but not a doctor’s note.

The changes to legislation mean that most workplace policies will need updating to reflect the new provisions.  This must be done as soon as possible to avoid complaints of unfair practices.

Next Week in Part 2: Changes to Vacation and Public Holiday Pay, and the new “Three Hour Pay” Rule.