What Ontario’s labour reforms mean for you
The Ontario government proposed a number of changes to provincial labour laws earlier this year, with the intention of protecting workers’ rights. This comes at a time when the job market itself seems to be changing, with more part-time, contract, and minimum-wage work available.
Currently, employees in these part-time and temp jobs don’t always have the same rights as their full-time co-workers. Bill 148—the government calls it the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, 2017 —aims to change that. If adopted, it will add several new provisions that pertain to part-time as well as full-time employees.
So, what are the proposed changes, and what do they mean for you? Here’s a recap of some of the tweaks the Ontario government hopes to phase in over the next two years.
Boosting minimum wage to $15 an hour
The general minimum wage, or the lowest rate an employer would be required to pay employees, will increase from $11.60 per hour (the rate until December 31st of this year) today to $14 per hour starting in 2018. This would then rise again in 2019, to $15 per hour.
Equal pay for part-time workers
If you are a casual, part-time, temporary, or seasonal employee, this provision would ensure you are paid the same wage as your full-time co-workers – provided you’re doing the same job for the same employer. You would also be free to ask your employer and your co-workers about wage rates without risking negative consequences.
There could still be differences in wages if, for instance, an employer has a seniority- or a merit-based system in place.
New scheduling rules
There are several new scheduling rules under the proposed legislation. For instance, if a shift is cancelled less than 48 hours before it’s supposed to start, your employer would be required to pay you three hours of your regular wage. If you usually work more than three hours per day but end up getting less than that when you report to work, you would be entitled to three hours’ pay. And if you’ve been employed for three months or more, you would have the right to request a shift change without worrying about reprisals.
More paid vacation and emergency leave
Under the new legislation, you would be entitled to three weeks of paid vacation after five years with the same employer. This is not the case right now, as employers can choose to stick to a two-week paid-vacation policy, regardless of how long someone has been working with the company. Also, personal emergency leave (PEL), such as sick days, would apply to all workplaces, not only those with 50 or more employees, and all employees would be able to take up to 10 PEL days, including two with pay.
According to Labour Minister Kevin Flynn, the proposed changes will “bring fairness to Ontarians,” including reduced hurdles to unionization. Nevertheless, they’ve been met with skepticism from both the business community and even the more progressive side of the political spectrum. Organizations representing employers, such as the Keep Ontario Working Coalition and the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, have also expressed concerns, pointing to reports that a higher minimum wage will put jobs at risk by raising costs for employers.
However, groups like the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and the Ontario Federation of Labour say those reports have not adequately considered potential gains in productivity, which would give businesses a better chance to retain people and reduce turnover. If they’re right, these labour reforms could be a win-win situation—for employees and employers alike.
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