In late October, the Ontario government introduced Bill 47, the Making Ontario Open for Business Act. The Act was a direct response to the changes to employment legislation under the previous government. Bill 148, or the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, had received a cool reception in the business community.
Many of the changes in Bill 148 left business owners, including staffing firm owners, scrambling to adjust. Increased personal leave, new formulas for public holiday pay, revised rights around scheduling, and the minimum wage hike were all rolled out very quickly.
Bill 47 has passed and is here to take the pressure off staffing agency owners. Here’s what you should note.
Minimum Wage Will Hold Until 2020
The minimum wage in Ontario jumped from $11.60 per hour to $14 per hour in January 2018 as mandated by Bill 148. Another proposed hike was to be implemented in January 2019.
Bill 47 puts a freeze on minimum wage increases until 2020. Afterwards, the government will introduce a series of scheduled, inflation-tied increases to the wage.
Staffing firm owners who were preparing to deal with yet another increase to the minimum wage should be glad to hear they can revise their budgets for 2019.
Personal Leave Is Shorter and Unpaid
Bill 148 had also introduced expanded personal leave for workers. Under it, workers were entitled to 10 days of personal leave per year, and two of those days were paid.
Bill 47 rolls the number of days back to eight in total. It also eliminates the two paid days. An employee, after being employed for 2 consecutive weeks, will now be entitled to up to 8 unpaid days in the following 3 categories:
Sick Leave – up to 3 unpaid days per calendar year for personal illness, injury or medical emergency. An employer can now ask for a medical note.
Family Responsibility Leave – up to 3 unpaid days per calendar year to be used for illness, injury or medical emergency of a listed family member.
Bereavement Leave – up to 2 unpaid days per calendar year to be used for the death of a listed family member.
While staffing agency owners need to be aware of any obligation to provide leave time, the removal of paid days reduces the administrative and financial burden.
The Old Public Holiday Formula Is Here to Stay
In May 2018, the Ontario government was forced to review the new public holiday pay formula included in Bill 148. Its review concluded the new formula was insufficient and had actually caused problems. It hadn’t been studied properly before being put in place.
The government suspended the new formula.In early May 2018,the government opted to return to the previous public holiday pay calculation. The previous policy came back into effect on June 1, 2018. It will be in place until December 31, 2019.
What does this mean for you? From now until the end of next year, you can continue using the old formula.
Equal Work for Equal Pay
This will remain based on sex. All the provisions implemented with Bill 148 have been removed.
Therefore, the government is no longer requiring equal pay for equal work on the basis of number of hours regularly worked (i.e. part-time or full-time) or differences in the term of employment (i.e. permanent, casual, temporary, seasonal).
6% Vacation Pay
This ruling remains in effect. Once an employee has a period of five consecutive years of employment at the same employer, they are eligible for 6% vacation pay.
New Requirements around Scheduling Are Repealed
One of the aims of the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act was to find better work-life balance for employees. In light of this, it introduced a series of new rights for workers regarding scheduling.
One of the most notable was a provision allowing workers to refuse on-call shifts if they weren’t notified 96 hours beforehand.
Staffing firm owners likely noted the problems this created for them. Sometimes, you don’t have four days’ notice that you’ll require a worker’s services. Sick days, personal leave, and other unexpected absences can leave employers and agency owners alike scrambling to find people to fill in.
Bill 47 rolls back these provisions, relieving the burden from staffing firm owners and other business owners alike.
Bill 148 Amendments That Remain in Place
Employment Standards Act
Extension of pregnancy/parental leave to a total of 18 months is preserved;
Extension of family medical leave from 8 weeks to 28 weeks is preserved;
Creation of critical illness leave, which includes the ability to take critical illness leave to care for a critically ill adult is preserved (replaced critically ill child care leave);
Creation of child death leave (distinct from crime-related child disappearance leave) is preserved.
Labour Relations Act
Deemed sale of business upon a change of building service providers is preserved;
Power of Board to order votes to take place outside the workplace, electronically or by phone, and to give directions about voting process is preserved;
Prohibition on discharge or discipline of employees without just cause during certain bargaining periods is preserved;
Power of Board to make interim decisions and orders, and to do so without providing reasons, is preserved.