Proposed Changes to Ontario Employment Laws

The Liberal Government has introduced Bill 18: Stronger Workplaces for a Stronger Economy Act, 2014

Bill 18 (first introduced in 2013 as Bill 146) passed first reading on July 16, 2014 and is likely to be granted Royal Assent in the near future.  Any changes outlined in the Bill will take effect anywhere from six months to one year after Royal Assent, (except the OHSA changes which are immediate upon passing) which means it will likely be in effect by Fall of 2015.

The Bill provides changes to the Employment Standards Act and Occupational Health and Safety Act, as well as the Labour Relations Act, and Workplace Safety and Insurance Act.

The changes to the Labour Relations Act only apply if you have a union, and are detailed so I will cover them in a separate blog. The WSIA changes apply to Temporary Help Agencies and remove the incentive for Client Employers to contract out “unsafe work” to Temp Agencies.

Employment Standards Act changes:

1. It will require employers to provide the ESA Standards Poster to all new employees, within 30 days of employment, in addition to the current obligation to post the Poster in the workplace where workers can see it. (Get the most recent version here). The poster must be made available in other languages as the employee(s) may request.

2. The Bill will provide for annual adjustments to the Minimum Wage paid to employees, including students, liquor servers, homeworkers, and hunting and fishing guides, using the Consumer Price Index.  The changes would be posted annually by the Government but here is the excerpt from the Bill:

 “(4) On October 1 of every year starting in 2015, the minimum wage that applied to a class of employees immediately before October 1 shall be adjusted as follows:

Previous wage × (Index A/Index B) = Adjusted wage  in which,

         “Previous wage” is the minimum wage that applied immediately before October 1 of the year,

            “Index A” is the Consumer Price Index for the previous calendar year,

           “Index B” is the Consumer Price Index for the calendar year immediately preceding the calendar year mentioned in the              description of “Index A”, and

         “Adjusted wage” is the new minimum wage.

Rounding

   (5)  If the adjustment required by subsection (4) would result in an amount that is not a multiple of 5 cents, the amount shall be rounded up or down to the nearest amount that is a multiple of 5 cents.

Exception where decrease

   (6) If the adjustment otherwise required by subsection (4) would result in a decrease in the minimum wage, no adjustment shall be made.”

 3. Bill 18 would extend coverage under the Employment Standards Act to Live-In Caregivers and Foreign National (Temporary) Workers, especially those employed by Temporary Help Agencies. It would provide overtime pay for temporary foreign employees, as well as ensuring that both the Agency and the Client Employer are jointly and severally liable for wages owed to the Worker.

The Bill would also place more obligations on both the Temporary Help Agency and the Agency’s Clients to accurately record and retain information on the places and hours worked by these employees, something that currently isn’t required.

4. The Bill will introduce a new Self-Audit process for employers. That’s right. The MOL can now ask you to provide a report on your workplace’s compliance in certain areas affecting Employment Standards:

 Self-audit

   91.1  (1)  An employment standards officer may, by giving written notice, require an employer to conduct an examination of the employer’s records, practices or both to determine whether the employer is in compliance with one or more provisions of this Act or the regulations.

Examination and report

91.1 (2)  If an employer is required to conduct an examination under subsection (1), the employer shall conduct the examination and report the results of the examination to the employment standards officer in accordance with the notice and the requirements of this section.

 The notice of audit will include timelines for compliance, the required format for the report, the information being requested for the Self-Audit, and the method to be used in conducting the report.

The report can include information on wages owed to employees, the status or existence of required policies, and so forth.  It is important to note that if you are not in compliance, Orders will be issued for compliance and unpaid wages must be remedied immediately.  Also important is the fact that these “Self Audits” do not replace inspections by the Ministry, which may still be conducted with or without notice.

5. Repeal of Maximum Limit for Claims. Basically, once this bill is passed this revision removes the limits on the amount of money that an employee can claim for unpaid wages, overtime, and vacation pay.  It also increases the time limits on the filing of these claims from six months to two years.

 “  (4)  An employment standards officer shall not issue an order under this section for more than $10,000 in wages with respect to any one employee for wages that become due to the employee before the day subsection 7 (1) of Schedule 2 to the Stronger Workplaces for a Stronger Economy Act, 2014 comes into force.

Same

(4.1)  There is no limit on the amount of an order issued under this section for wages that become due to an employee on or after the day subsection 7 (1) of Schedule 2 to the Stronger Workplaces for a Stronger Economy Act, 2014 comes into force.”

 

Occupational Health and Safety Act Changes

    1.  The definition of “worker” in subsection 1 (1) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act is repealed and the following substituted:

“worker” means any of the following, but does not include an inmate of a correctional institution or like institution or facility who participates inside the institution or facility in a work project or rehabilitation program:

1.  A person who performs work or supplies services for monetary compensation.

2.  A secondary school student who performs work or supplies services for no monetary compensation under a work experience program authorized by the school board that operates the school in which the student is enrolled.

3.  A person who performs work or supplies services for no monetary compensation under a program approved by a college of applied arts and technology, university or other post-secondary institution.

4.  A person who receives training from an employer, but who, under the Employment Standards Act, 2000, is not an employee for the purposes of that Act because the conditions set out in subsection 1 (2) of that Act have been met.

5.  Such other persons as may be prescribed who perform work or supply services to an employer for no monetary compensation; (“travailleur”)

This means that those individuals who are not paid for work or services provided to an employer (i.e., interns, volunteers, co-op students) are now covered under OHSA.   This revision to the OHSA comes into force on the day the Stronger Workplaces for a Stronger Economy Act, 2014 receives Royal Assent.

 I will keep my faithful readers updated on the progress of this bill!