A summary of Ontario’s changing employment and labour legislation

Many of the changes that were introduced to Ontario’s Employment Standards Act in January 2018 were short-lived, as the province’s new government elected in June last year is rolling out its own amendments.

With the new changes taking effect on Jan. 1, 2019, here’s a summary of the key ways Bill 47 is changing the previous amendments under Bill 148:

Read: Ontario government unveils new labour standards bill

Minimum wage

While the previous bill scheduled an increase of the minimum wage from $14 to $15 an hour, the general minimum wage will remain at $14 per hour through 2019. Beginning in 2020, annual minimum wage increases will be tied to the consumer price index.

Personal emergency leave 

Bill 148 enacted changes to the act’s existing paid emergency leave provisions, including two paid days of leave. The new bill repealed those changes and replaced them with three new unpaid leaves of absence available to any Ontario employee regardless of the size of employer.

  • Sick leave: Entitlement of up to three unpaid sick days per calendar year where an employee has been employed for two consecutive weeks. Leave is for the employee’s own personal illness, injury or medical emergency.
  • Family responsibility leave: Entitlement of up to three unpaid days each calendar year for family responsibility leave where the employee has been employed for two consecutive weeks. It’s to be used for illness, injury or medical emergency of a listed family member, or for an urgent matter that affects a listed family member.
  • Bereavement leave: Entitlement of up to two unpaid days each calendar year for bereavement leave where the employee has been employed for two consecutive weeks. It’s to be used for the death of a listed family member.

Read: What do Canada’s provinces offer around bereavement leave?

Equal pay for equal work

The former bill expanded equal pay for equal work under the act by prohibiting differences in pay based on an employee’s employment status, such as permanent versus casual, or based on the number of hours they worked.

It also prohibited differences in pay based on assignment employee status, which applied to assignment employees placed by a temporary help agency with a client of the agency. The new bill repealed these expanded equal pay for equal work provisions. However, the act will continue to require equal pay for equal work on the basis of sex.

Request for changes to schedule or work location

Bill 148 introduced a provision that would have allowed an employee working for an employer for at least three months to make a written request to their employer for a change in schedule or work location. Bill 47 repealed this change.

Three-hour rule

The former bill enacted changes to the existing three-hour rule in the Employment Standards Act, while the new bill repealed these changes, which hadn’t yet come into force, introducing a modified three-hour rule.

The new rule applies where an employee who regularly works more than three hours a day is required to present themselves for work but then works less than three hours, despite being available to work longer. In that scenario, the employee will be paid wages for three hours, which is the greater of two amounts:

  • three hours of pay at the employee’s regular rate, or
  • the sum of (1) the amount the employee earned while working and (2) the remaining time calculated at the employee’s regular rate.

The new rule doesn’t apply where the employer’s unable to provide work due to fire, lightning, power failure, storms or similar causes beyond the employer’s control that result in the stopping of work.

Read: Feds introduce pay equity legislation

Minimum on-call pay

Bill 148 created a new entitlement to minimum on-call pay, which would have applied where an employee is placed on-call, but is either not called into work or is required to work but for less than three hours, despite being available to work longer. This change, which hadn’t come into effect, was repealed by Bill 47.

Right to refuse work

Bill 148 introduced an employee’s right to refuse a request or demand to work, or to be on-call on a day they weren’t scheduled, if the request or demand is made less than 96 hours before the start of the shift. This change, which also hadn’t come into effect, was repealed by Bill 47.

Employee classification

The former bill amended the Employment Standards Act to prohibit the misclassification of employees, primarily aiming the misclassification of employees as independent contractors. The bill placed the onus on employers to prove an individual is an independent contractor and not an employee. The prohibition against misclassification of employees will remain in the act, but the new bill removed the reverse onus requirement.

Read: What will happen to Ontario’s new employment legislation?