Bill 148 Passed
On November 22, 2017, the Ontario government passed Bill 148, Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, 2017. This legislation brings significant changes to the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA), which is the law that governs most workplaces in Ontario. Many of these changes take effect on January 1, 2018. Other changes will occur on April 1, 2018.
Bill 148 was drafted by the current Liberal government as a response to a report on on the Employment Standards Act, 2000 and the Labour Relations Act, 1995.
Below is an overview of some of the significant ESA changes.
- On January 1, 2018, the general minimum wage in Ontario will increase 21% to $14 per hour, and then to $15 per hour on January 1, 2019. Following the increase in 2019, the minimum wage rate will continue to be indexed to the rate of inflation.
- The minimum wage increase will increase costs for employers, particularly smaller businesses.
- The general increase will be a boon to employees, particularly those employees who find themselves attempting to make ends meet in minimum wage jobs. The higher minimum wage is likely to increase their buying power.
Penalties for Independent Contractor/Employee Misclassification
- Penalties for employers who misclassify employees as independent contractors. Penalties include prosecution, fines and conviction.
- The onus will be on the employer to prove the person(s) in question were independent contractors and not employees. This can often make defending these charges more difficult.
- Employers who misclassify employees become liable to the former independent contractors for vacation pay, notice or severance, and the like.
- Fines could range as high as $50,000 for an individual with misclassified employees, to as high as $500,000 for a repeat-offender corporation.
- Employers will now be required to pay casual, part-time, and seasonal workers the same hourly rate as full-time employees carrying out the same job.
- Exceptions to this rule include seniority, merit, the quantity or quality of an employee’s production, and any others factors that can be justified by the employer. These exceptions are likely to stunt the concept of pay equity.
- Employees will receive a minimum of 3 weeks of vacation time and 6% vacation pay, if they have 5 or more years of service.
- Employees with less than 5 years’ service are guaranteed a minimum of 2 weeks vacation and 4% vacation pay.
Public Holiday Pay
- Public holiday pay will be determined by dividing an employee’s total earnings by the number of days worked in the previous pay period.
Extended Leaves of Absence
The following are job-protected leaves added by Bill 148:
- Personal Emergency Leave. Up to 10 days of leave for employees. The first 2 days must be paid time off. Employers are no longer allowed to request a doctor’s sick note.
- Parental Leave. Leave is extended from 35 weeks to 61 weeks for employees who have taken a pregnancy leave. Those who have not taken pregnancy leave are allowed 63 weeks of leave, up from 37 weeks.
- Domestic & Sexual Violence Leave. Employees would have the right to take both up to 10 days and up to 15 weeks of unpaid leave per calendar year. The first 5 days of this leave will be paid. Employees who have been employed for 13 consecutive weeks with the same employer are entitled to this leave.
- Family Medical Leave. Extended 28 weeks in a 52-week period to provide support to a critically ill family member.
- Critical Illness Leave. Up to 17 weeks to take care of adult family members.
- Child Death or Crime-related Disappearance. Leave of up to 104 weeks.
- Employees paid two or more regular rates for work performed for the same employer in a work week, will now be entitled to overtime pay at time-and-a-half for every hour above the overtime threshold.
- Employers who cancel a shift within 48 hours of the scheduled start time must pay employees for 3 hours of work.
- On-call employees have to be paid at least 3 hours for every 24 hours that they are on-call, even if the employee is not called in.
- Employees who have worked for at least 3 months can request a change to their schedule.
- Employees can refuse a shift if their employer gives them less than 96 hours’ notice to work said shift.
- Where an employee ends up working less than 3 hours on a shift that is usually longer than 3 hours per day, that employee must be paid for 3 hours of work.