Major Changes to Ontario’s Employment Laws

Ontario’s government has passed the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, 2017, making several changes to the Employment Standards Act, 2000.  Employers covered by this Act should be working on addressing the new amendments, many of which are effective now.

Under the new legislation, the minimum wage rate was increased to $14 per hour on January 1, 2018. The minimum wage is scheduled to increase to $15 per hour on January 1, 2019, and is subject to an annual inflation adjustment on October 1 of every year starting in 2019. The Act also adds two new leaves of absence and makes several changes to existing ones. Employers must review and update their workplace policies to stay compliant. The changes, most of which became effective January 1, 2018, include:

  • Pregnancy Leave – leave will now end on the later of (a) 17 weeks after it began, and (b) 12 weeks after the birth, still-birth or miscarriage.
  • Parental Leave – leave has been extended from 35 weeks to 61 weeks for employees who have taken a pregnancy leave and from 37 weeks to 63 weeks for employees who have not. The leave may begin no later than 78 weeks after the child is born or comes into the employee’s custody, care and control for the first time.
  • Family Medical Leave – leave has been extended from 8 weeks to 28 weeks if a qualified health practitioner issues a certificate stating that a family member has a serious medical condition with a significant risk of death occurring in 52 weeks or less. Formerly, the leave could only be taken to provide care and support to an employee’s critically ill child.
  • Critical Illness Leave – employees with six consecutive months of service will be entitled to a critical illness leave of absence of up to 17 weeks to provide care and support to a critically ill adult family member.
  • Child Death Leave – new leave that replaces the “Crime Related Child Death or Disappearance Leave”; employees with six consecutive months of service will be entitled to a leave for a period of up to 104 weeks.
  • Personal Emergency Leave – all employers are now required to provide this leave and must pay regular wages for the first two days of the leave. Formerly, the leave was only required at workplaces with 50 or more employees.
  • Domestic or Sexual Violence Leave – new leave; employees who have been employed for at least 13 weeks will be entitled to a domestic/sexual violence leave of up to 10 days and up to 15 weeks, if the employee or a child of the employee experiences domestic or sexual violence. The first five days of this leave must be paid.

Starting April 1, 2018, employers will be required to pay all full-time, part-time, casual, temporary, and seasonal employees performing substantially the same work at the same rate of pay as a full-time employee. Employees will be able to request a wage review of the employer if they believe the employer is not complying with the Act.

The Ministry of Labour has revised the mandatory Employment Standards Act poster to reflect the amendments to the Employment Standards Act, 2000. Employers are required to post and provide a copy of the most recent version of the poster to all employees. The Ministry has announced that to enforce these changes, the province will hire up to 175 more employment standards officers. The Ministry will also be launching a program to educate both employees and businesses about their rights and obligations under Act.

Employers should update their Ontario All-On-OneTM Labor Law Poster to ensure employees have the most current information concerning their rights and responsibilities in the workplace.

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