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Many businesses that are provincially-regulated employers in Ontario have spent the better part of last year changing their workplace policies to ensure compliance with the labour reforms implemented by the Wynne government in the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act (“Bill 148”). However, such businesses should be aware that Ontario’s recently elected Progressive Conservative government has tabled the Making Ontario Open for Business Act, 2018 (“Bill 47”) which, if passed in its current form, will result in widespread changes and rollbacks to some – but not all – of the reforms in Bill 148.

The proposed changes include the following:

Elimination of Personal Emergency Leave (“PEL”)

There would no longer be any statutory PEL in Ontario. Bill 47 would eliminate the minimum 2 paid and 8 unpaid PEL days and replace them with the following, for any employee who has been employed for at least two consecutive weeks:

  • 3 unpaid Sick Leave days
    • Employees would be entitled to take up to 4 unpaid sick days in each calendar year because of a “personal illness, injury or medical emergency”.
    • The employer could require evidence “reasonable in the circumstances” that the employee is entitled to the leave.
    • The employer would be permitted to require a doctor’s note.
  • 3 unpaid Family Responsibility Leave days
    • Employees would be entitled to take up to 3 unpaid family responsibility days in each calendar year because of the “illness, injury or medical emergency” of a family member or an urgent matter that concerns a family member.
    • The employer could require evidence “reasonable in the circumstances” that the employee is entitled to the leave.
  • 2 unpaid Bereavement Leave days
    • Employees would be entitled to take up to 2 unpaid bereavement leave days in each calendar year because of the death of a family member.
    • The employer could require evidence “reasonable in the circumstances” that the employee is entitled to the leave.

Frozen Minimum Wage

The minimum wage would be kept at $14.00 per hour until 2020, at which point the minimum wage would be subject to an annual inflation adjustment on October 1st of every year.

Repealed Scheduling Reforms

The scheduling provisions of Bill 148 governing on-call pay and employees’ right to refuse requests to work or be on call with less than 96 hours’ notice would be repealed and would accordingly not come into force on January 1, 2019.

However, Bill 47 would retain the three “three-hour rule”, which provides that an employee would be entitled to a minimum of 3 hours’ regular wages if he/she regularly works more than three hours a day, is required to present himself or herself for work, and actually works less than three hours despite being available to work longer. Note that this change would come into effect immediately if/when Bill 47 is passed.

Changes to Equal Pay for Equal Work

Employers would no longer be prohibited from paying employees different rates of pay based on their employment status (i.e., part-time vs. full-time, contract vs. permanent). Similarly, temporary help agencies would not be prohibited from paying their assignment workers assigned to a client a lower rate of pay than that received by the employees of the temporary help agency’s client.

Takeaways

Employers may need to revise their policies, employment handbooks, and/or employment contracts to reflect the changes being implemented in Bill 47. These revisions could result in some practical problems for employers who intend to remove or scale-back recently announced or implemented changes, like PEL entitlements or scheduling changes. It should also be noted that Bill 47 is currently in its second reading, so further changes may be made before it is passed by the Legislature.

If you have any questions about how Bill 47 may impact your business, please contact us.

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