Province Moves Forward on Minimum Wage and Other Workplace Changes

Love or hate the province's proposed changes to employment rules and regulations in Ontario, the policies do appear to be moving forward.

Recently, Bill 148 (better known as the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, 2017) passed second reading after debate in the Ontario Legislature.

The bill, if passed, would bring major changes to the Ontario workforce.

What are some significant policy proposals?

  • Raising Ontario’s general minimum wage to $14 per hour on January 1, 2018, and then to $15 on January 1, 2019, followed by annual increases at the rate of inflation
  • Mandating equal pay for part-time, temporary, casual and seasonal employees doing the same job as full-time employees; and equal pay for temporary help agency employees doing the same job as permanent employees at the agencies’ client companies
  • Expanding personal emergency leave to 10 days with an across-the-board minimum of at least two paid days per year for all workers
  • Providing up to 17 weeks off without the fear of losing their job when a worker or their child has experienced or is threatened with domestic or sexual violence
  • Bringing Ontario’s vacation time in line with the national average by ensuring at least three weeks vacation after five years with a company
  • Making employee scheduling fairer, including requiring employees to be paid for three hours of work if their shift is cancelled within 48 hours of its scheduled start time

The government will also propose measures to expand family leaves and ensure that employees are not misclassified as independent contractors and denied benefits as a result.

To enforce these changes, the province says it will hire up to 175 more employment standards officers and launch a program to educate both employees and small and medium-sized businesses about their rights and obligations under the Employment Standards Act.

The Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act responds to the final report of the Changing Workplaces Review.

The report estimated that more than 30 per cent of Ontario workers were in precarious work in 2014. In 2016, the median hourly wage was $13.00 for part-time workers and $24.73 for full-time workers.

Over the past 30 years, part-time work has grown to represent nearly 20 per cent of total employment.

Currently, half of the workers in Ontario earning less than $15 per hour are between the ages of 25 and 64, and the majority are women.

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