Highlights from Ontario's Changing Workplaces Review

Today the Ontario Government released its long-awaited final report (Report) in its Changing Workplaces Review (Review). Initiated in February of 2015, the Review aimed to consider broader issues and trends affecting Ontario’s workplaces (such as an increase in precarious employment and a shift from manufacturing to service jobs) and to assess how Ontario’s existing labour and employment law framework addressed those issues.

The Report is authored by Special Advisors C. Michael Mitchell and the Honourable John C. Murray, who were appointed to lead the Review. The 419-page Report makes 173 recommendations with respect to Ontario’s labour and employment laws, including the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA) and the Labour Relations Act, 1995 (LRA).  While we will be providing a more comprehensive review and discussion of the Report later this week, below we have provided you with highlights of some noteworthy recommendations in the Report:

General

  • To consolidate the ESA, the LRA and the Occupational Health and Safety Act into one “Workplace Rights Act,” with the objective that employers and employees are aware of their legal rights and responsibilities in the workplace, and that the law is easy to access, understand and administer

Employment Standards

  • Scheduling: To provide the Ministry of Labour with the authority to regulate the scheduling of employees by employers, and to adopt a sector-specific approach to the regulation of scheduling, making the fast food and retail industries a priority
  • Employee vs. Independent Contractor: To add the term “dependent contractor” as defined in the LRA to the definition of employee under the ESA, and to make worker misclassification (employee vs. independent contractor) a priority enforcement issue
  • Personal Emergency Leave (PEL) and Bereavement Leave: To remove bereavement leave from the PEL provisions of the ESA and provide for a separate 3-day bereavement leave entitlement for each of the family members covered by the existing PEL provisions, with no annual restriction; to amend the PEL entitlement from ten days to seven; and, to remove the 50-employee threshold such that all employees are entitled to PEL under the ESA
  • Vacation with Pay: To increase the vacation entitlement from two weeks per year to three weeks per year after five consecutive years of employment with the same employer
  • Sick Notes: To require employers to pay for an employee’s sick note where an employer requires an employee to provide one

Comprehensive recommendations are also made with respect to the enforcement and administration of employment standards, including recommendations to allocate more resources to proactive enforcement initiatives, such as spot checks, audits and targeted inspections.

Labour Relations

  • Remove Exclusions: To allow the following groups of employees access to the collective bargaining regime under the LRA: domestic workers, hunters and trappers, members of the architectural, dental, land surveying, legal or medical profession employed in a professional capacity, and agricultural and horticultural employees (with certain restrictions)
  • Broader-Based Bargaining for Franchisees: To implement a collective bargaining model wherein certified or voluntarily recognized bargaining units of different franchisees of the same franchisor by the same union in the same geographic area could be required by the Ontario Labour Relations Board to bargain together centrally; an employer bargaining agency composed of representatives of the franchisees would represent the franchisee employers at the bargaining table
  • Successor Rights: To apply the successor rights provisions to the building services industries (security, food services, cleaning) and government-funded home care

Ontario’s Minister of Labour, Kevin Flynn, released a statement today indicating that the Ontario Government has reviewed the Report and will be announcing a formal response within the next week. We will provide an update on the Government’s formal response as it becomes available.