NEW LABOUR LAWS: If You Don’t Know, Now You Know! (Part 1)

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Whether you’re a business owner with employees or you are an employee, you want to read this in order to know how Ontario’s labour laws have changed and how you’ll be affected!

I’ve had my eye on this for a while, wondering if the proposed legislation, The Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, 2017 (Bill 148) would be passed, as it affects many business owners and workers and their current employment contracts. Recently, on November 22nd, 2017 the Bill passed and on November 27th, 2017 the legislation received Royal Assent. Bill 148 makes significant amendments to Ontario’s Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA), Labour Relations Act, 1995 (LRA), and Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA). Certain changes under the Act will come into force effective immediately, while others will come into force on January 1, 2018, and throughout 2018 and 2019. This post will cover the legislative changes that are effective immediately or coming into effect in 2018. I will post a follow up article detailing some of the other new laws, including laws that will take effect in 2019. It's important to be aware of the changes now so that you can start strategizing. 

Some of the noteworthy changes include Ontario raising minimum wage, providing equal pay for part-time and full-time workers, providing paid sick leave, and expanded paid leave. The new legislation seeks to promote more fairness in the workplace and more security and opportunity for vulnerable workers.

I’ve outlined some of the new laws below, when they take effect, and provided commentary on what the law was previously. I’ve also bolded the major amendments that workers will celebrate  and employers must be aware of. Let me break it down for you!

  • Minimum Wage: Ontario's minimum wage will increase to $14 per hour on January 1, 2018, and then to $15 on January 1, 2019, followed by annual increases at the rate of inflation
  • Vacation & Statutory Holidays: Ontario's vacation policy will ensure at least three weeks' vacation after five years with the same employer. A new formula for calculating holiday pay will be implemented entitling an employee to holiday pay based on the wages paid to the employee in the pay period prior to the holiday, divided by the days worked in that period. The new formula will result in an increased entitlement for certain employees. (Effective January 1, 2018)
  • Expanded personal emergency leave: 10 days per calendar year for all employees (before under the ESA this was only required for companies with 50+ employees), with at least two paid days per year for employees who have been employed for at least a week (previously, there were no mandatory paid days). Employers are prohibited from requiring a doctor's note from an employee taking personal emergency leave (Effective January 1, 2018)
  • Equal pay for equal work: mandated equal pay for part-time, temporary, casual and seasonal employees doing the same job as full-time employees; and equal pay for temporary help agency employees doing the same job as employees at the agencies' client companies. (Effective April 1, 2018)
  • Extended Family Medical Leave: Family Medical Leave will increase from 8 weeks to up to 28 weeks in a 52 week period to provide care or support to a family member who has a serious medical condition with a significant risk of death within 26 weeks. (Effective January 1, 2018
  • Extended Pregnancy Leave: Pregnancy leave will be increased for employees who experience a still birth or miscarriage from 6 to 12 weeks. (Effective January 1, 2018)
  • Extended Parental Leave: Parental leave will be extended from 35 weeks to 61 weeks for employees who have taken a pregnancy leave, and from 37 weeks to 63 weeks for employees who have not. (Effective December 3, 2017 *IN EFFECT)
  • New Critical Illness Leave: Employees will be entitled to: (i) a leave of up to 37 weeks in a 52-week period for an employee to provide care or support to a critically ill minor child who is a family member of the employee; and (ii) a leave of up to 17 weeks in a 52-week period for an employee to provide care or support to a critically ill adult who is a family member. (Effective December 3, 2017 *IN EFFECT)

The government has also added measures to ensure employees are not misclassified as independent contractors, ensuring they get the benefits and protections they deserve, effective immediately. Read the AWE blog post on "Independent contractors vs Employees" to get a better understanding of misclassification, as distinguishing classes of workers really matters now! Under the new law there is protection against employee misclassification. Effective immediately, employers will be explicitly prohibited from misclassifying employees as independent contractors and could be subject to prosecution and potentially monetary penalties as well as conviction under the ESA. In the event of a dispute regarding an individual’s employment status, employers will bear the onus of proving that the individual is not an employee.

Another interesting change concerns high-heeled shoes. Now under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA), effective immediately, employers will be prohibited from requiring a worker to wear footwear with an elevated heel unless it is required to perform the work safely. Workers employed as performers in the entertainment and advertising industry will be exempted from this change.

So, what’s the takeaway? Bill 148 will require Ontario employers to review their employment policies and practices to ensure they are compliant with the sections of the legislation that are taking effect immediately and in the next few weeks and months. Workers should also be aware of their increased entitlements under the new law. Contracts may also need to be updated as soon as possible to comply with the new minimum wage and paid emergency leave days. It’s also more important than ever to classify workers properly. Note that independent contractors are not covered under the ESA and these changes do not apply to them. It’s important to hire the correct category of worker, and be mindful when drafting the employment agreement, as the government is now cracking down and has imposed penalties for misclassification under the new law.

If you have any questions about the impact of Bill 148 or for more information or support in preparing for the new legislation, please get in touch with AWE Legal at