Does your business have employees? Things may soon be changing for you, in a big way.
Kathleen Wynne’s provincial government is considering recommendations to change Ontario’s employment laws. Employment laws affect almost everyone in Ontario and it is important to understand what is on the table.
The Employment Standards Act (ESA) is the act that sets out most Ontario’s laws around employment, including minimum wage, vacation time entitlement, and notice periods for termination. Because the ESA will usually trump any employment contract you have with an employee, it is important for business owners and employees to understand the general provisions of the act. If your business has employees or has considered hiring one, have likely spent time familiarizing yourself with at least some of the rules in the ESA. Unfortunately, you will soon have to go through this process again.
Wynne’s government is considering changes both to the ESA and the Labour Relations Act, the act that deals primarily with unionized workers. The bulk of the ESA was passed in 2000, making it more than 17 years since there has been a wholesale re-examination of Ontario’s employment laws. Working conditions in Ontario have changed significantly since 2000, especially in relation to part-time and “freelance” work, and the intention of the review is to update employment laws to reflect these changes.
The review has caused concerns both from employers and from employee advocates. Employers are nervous that Ontario’s new laws will be too onerous on businesses, while employee advocates worry that they will not do enough to protect the Ontario worker. The challenge for the Ontario government will be to strike a balance between employee rights and maintaining a competitive business environment.
While we cannot know for certain what changes will be implemented, but some of the items being discussed that will directly impact most employers are:
- making sick days mandatory
- increasing minimum paid vacation time
- lowering the threshold for overtime from 44 hours to 40 hours
- abolishing minimum wage for students under 18 and people who serve alcohol
- requiring equal pay for part-time and full-time workers
- compensating workers for last-minute schedule changes
- banning or limiting the use of replacement workers during a strike
- redefining what the difference between an “employee” and a “contractor” is
Whatever changes end up being implemented, it will be important for employers to and employees alike to understand what their rights and responsibilities are.
If you have any questions related to employment matters, don’t hesitate to contact us!