Ontario Employment Standards Reforms 2.0

A tired and sleepy man complaining about work and pay

Changes are in the making.

Employment Standards legislation in Ontario may be getting its biggest reboot in decades. The Changing Workplace Review Committee of the Ontario Ministry of Labour (MOL) has been charged with the task to review and make recommendations for updating Ontario’s existing labour and employment laws.

Through twelve days of public hearings around the province, the MOL have heard from over 200 organizations and individuals and received more than 300 written submissions. From that review process, the MOL have developed an interim report on recommendations for the current Liberal Government to consider.

Click here if you wish to read the interim report in detail.

The Changing Workplace Review Committee is reviewing both the Ontario Labour Relations Act (OLRA) the Employment Standards Act 2000 (ESA 2000) at the same time.

The CBC has written an article and has done a great job at summarizing the possible changes which include but not limited to:

  • Providing paid sick days.
  • Increasing paid vacation the minimum required paid vacation to three weeks per year from the current two weeks.
  • Lowering when overtime kicks in.
  • If doing the same job, part-time and full-time employees to be paid the same.
  • Schedules to be posted in advanced.
  • Restrictions on use of temporary agencies.

Click here to read the article.

Many organizations get very concerned when the government starts changing rules that make running a business more costly or adds greater regulations. Businesses, especially small business, worry that their existing struggles will be made worse, and that any regulatory increases will decrease jobs, hurting our economy.

Before anyone gets too upset, let’s remember that these are only recommendations. We must, as a just society, remember and review the reality of individuals who work in minimum wage jobs.

According to Statistics Canada:

  • Between 1997 and 2013, the proportion of employees paid at minimum wage increased from 5.0% to 6.7%. The bulk of this increase occurred between 2003 and 2010.
  • In 2013, the minimum wage was around $10 in all provinces. In constant dollars, this rate was similar to the rate observed in the late 1970s.

Let’s interpret these statistics. Less than 7% of the working population are employed in a minimum wage paying job. This means that 93% of workers are being paid and have workplace standards that are already about the minimum standards as covered by employment legislation. When considering these statistics in inflation-adjusted dollars, it seems that it is no more expensive to pay minimum wage workers now as it was in the 1970’s.

When employment laws significantly change there is always be a period of turmoil and unrest. It is the job of HR departments to conduct an assessment to determine what the true impact will be.

Discussion Questions

  1. Review the Changing Workplace Review Committee’s interim report. Focus on the proposed changes to employment standards. Pick two recommendations that you would implement in your workplace, including a rationale for each.

Click here to read the report.

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