Ontario’s New Employment Standards: What Do They Mean for Your Company?

The Stronger Workplaces for a Stronger Economy Act received royal assent in November, amending five Ontario labour statutes including the Employment Standards Act, the Labour Relations Act and the Occupational Health and Safety Act. Many of the act’s provisions take effect this year.

As an employer, what do you need to know about this new legislation? Here’s a look at how it impacts these three major areas:

Employment Standards Act

  • The monetary cap on claims has been eliminated. Effective February 15, the $10,000 cap on the recovery of unpaid wages is no longer effective. The recovery period has been extended to two years. This makes the ESA process potentially more appealing for litigating employees and could increase claims made under this process.
  • New self-auditing requirements take effect May 20. An employment standards officer may require you to conduct an examination of records and/or practices to determine ESA compliance. Subsequent reporting obligations may occur if infractions are discovered.
  • Temporary help rules are changing. Agencies and their employer clients will be held accountable for certain standards violations, such as failure to pay regular wages, overtime pay and public holiday entitlements. Clients of temporary help agencies will be deemed to be employers of assignment employees and as such, will share wage-related liabilities.

Labour Relations Act

LRA changes affect the construction industry. Beginning May 20, the open period during which another trade union may apply to the Ontario Labour Relations Board for certification as a bargaining agent has been shortened from three to two months. During this period, employees may apply for termination of bargaining rights.

Occupational Health and Safety Act

As of November 20, 2014, employers’ obligations under the OHSA have a broader scope, due to a new definition of “worker:”

  • Prior to this legislation, only persons who worked for monetary compensation qualified as “workers.” Now, OHSA coverage is extended to co-op students and other unpaid learners. This gives them protection under OHSA, including the right to know about workplace hazards and the right to refuse unsafe work.

Protecting Vulnerable Workers

Designed to support Ontario’s Poverty Reduction Strategy, the Stronger Workplaces for a Stronger Economy Act ties future minimum wage increases to the province’s Consumer Price Index, which is announced by April of each year and takes effect October 1. In addition, it expands employment protection to cover foreign workers who come to Ontario under an immigration or foreign temporary employee program. The number of such workers grew from 91,000 in 2008 to 133,000 in 2013.

The recruitment experts at Employment Professionals Canada can help you stay current with legislation and business developments that impact your workforce, business and industry. To learn more, read our related posts or contact us today.