Changing Workplaces Review: Labour Relations Details

Previously, we have discussed several aspects of the Changing Workplaces Review commissioned by the Ontario Labour Board, including the trends that are of concern to the Labour Board and proposed changes to employment standards. In this week’s article, we will go over how these changes could impact employers and workers.

The Labour Board may have the best of intentions, such as its stated goal of protecting vulnerable workers in precarious jobs, but these types of jobs are often chosen by workers after careful consideration of their needs.

Precarious jobs typically include part time, contract or temporary work, which some may not consider ideal. Typical vulnerable workers such as parents, persons with disabilities, older adults and youth may require these types of jobs in order to accommodate school or family obligations, to try out a new type of work or employer on a short-term basis or because they lack the capacity to work a full-time schedule.

The Labour Board may not have considered what happens to such employees in the absence of these flexible working options. According to Marina Butler, President of Employment Professionals Canada and expert on staffing and HR in Ontario, “of largest concern are the unintended consequences that may be brought by instituting the proposed changes– unanticipated side effects that can harm employers, employees and the economy of the Province of Ontario as a whole.”

Negative consequences of proposed changes could include:

Fewer Jobs. Proposed changes include extending the Employment Standards Act of 2000 (ESA) to cover independent and dependent contractors. This could lead to employers hiring fewer seasonal or project workers. Existing employees will face the stress of added workload during busy seasons. Further, those who count on augmenting their income with seasonal work may find these jobs in short supply.

Less Job Flexibility. Independent contractors such as consultants and technicians often choose a career that involves taking on one project after another rather than accepting a job with just one employer. This allows them to go where their skills are in demand, choose the projects of most interest to them and maximize their income. If changes are enacted as proposed, these professionals may find many opportunities drying up.

Reduced Income Potential. The Labour Board proposes narrowing or eliminating overtime and excess hour work exemptions. This means employers cannot count on offering overtime on an as-needed basis to get work done. Further, workers often count on overtime as part of their income. Thus, the elimination or reduction of overtime hurts both workers and employers.

Business Interruption. The proposed prohibition of employers using replacement workers during a strike can impair an employer’s ability to maintain business continuity while negotiating a contract labour dispute. This can hurt companies on both a short- and long-term basis; leading to a lessened ability to hire in the future.

Economic Slowdown. When competing in a global economy, it’s essential for employers to have more options, not fewer. While it’s critical that worker’s jobs and rights are protected, these proposed changes can put jobs and businesses in jeopardy and make it more difficult to compete in the global marketplace.

As employee rights and collective bargaining continue to be a concern of the labour board, employers must be vigilant to keep up with recommendations that can have a negative impact on their business and what steps they can take to protect their business and the jobs of their employees.

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See our related posts on the Changing Workplaces Review series: