Labour Law Round Up 2018

What a tumultuous year 2018 has been for employment and labour law! At PooranLaw we have spent the 2018 tracking, analyzing and travelling the province to educate and inform employers and families across the province on the latest developments in labour and employment law.  Read on for a quick snap shot of the key developments in 2018.

The year started with a bang on January 1, 2018 when a wave of legislative changes intended to protect vulnerable workers came into effect under Bill 148, the Fair Workplaces Better Jobs Act.  The initial round of changes included:

  • The $14 minimum wage
  • prohibition on mischaracterizing workers as independent contractors
  • new paid personal emergency leave
  • dramatic changes to public holiday pay
  • elimination of the “unpaid trainee” exemption, and
  • the introduction of relaxed union-certification laws that made it easier for unions to gain bargaining rights over a non-union employers’ employees

A second round of changes, most importantly the Equal Pay for Equal Work provisions of Bill 148, came into effect on April 1, 2018.   Further Bill 148 changes were slated to come into effect on January 1, 2019, including increases to the Minimum Wage, new scheduling rules, and the elimination of the “simulated work” or “sheltered workshop” exemption under the ESA.

In addition to Bill 148, immediately before the election the Liberals passed the Pay Transparency Act.  This Act would require employers to publicize pay rates in job postings in the hopes of improving gender equity in income and compensation.

The Liberal labour reform express came to a grinding halt, however, when the PC government was elected on June 7, 20188.  The legislature was recalled on July 11 ushering in a flurry of Conservative labour reforms.

First, contract professors, teaching assistants and graduate assistants at York University were legislated back to work with Bill 2, Back to Class Act. This was a clear signal that there would be changes to the way that the government handled labour and employment issues.

Then came Bill 47, the Making Ontario Open for Business Act. Bill 47 undid many of the changes that had been implemented by the Liberal government to the Employment Standards Act (ESA) and the Labour Relations Act (LRA) through Bill 148, including personal emergency leave entitlements, equal pay for equal work, future minimum wage increases, as well as postponing perhaps permanently the elimination of the sheltered work exemption to the ESA. The Bill 47 changes to the ESA come into effect January 1, 2019 and the changes to the LRA came into effect on November 21, 2018. PooranLaw’s full discussion of Bill 47 can be found here.

Next, Bill 57, the Restoring Trust, Transparency and Accountability Act was passed on December 6, 2018, delaying the commencement of the Pay Transparency Act, indefinitely.  In all likelihood this legislation, like so many other pieces of legislation slated to come into force “on proclamation” will simply fade away, rather than ever coming into force.  Bill 57 also contained changes to the Pension Benefits Act that affect pension plan administration and to the Fire Protection and Prevention Act, 1997 that would affect interest arbitration (and therefore, collective bargaining) in the firefighting sector.

Finally, Bill 66, the Restoring Ontario’s Competitiveness Act, was introduced on December 6, 2018. Bill 66 is an omnibus bill that proposes changes to the Pension Benefits Act, the Employment Standards Act, and the Labour Relations Act.  The key aspects of this legislation include:

  • Private-sector and non-prescribed single employer pension plans would be permitted to transfer assets into a jointly sponsored pension plan through a transfer of assets and liabilities, opening up more flexibility for employers offering pension plans to restructure their pension offerings;
  • Employers would no longer be required to post the Ministry of Labour Employment Standards posters in their workplaces, welcome news for families and other employers for whom the workplace is also the private home of people supported.
  • Employers would no longer be required to apply to the Director of Employment Standards before making any agreement that allow its employees to exceed 48 hours of work in a work week, reducing bureaucratic barriers to operational efficiency.
  • Employers would not be required to receive approval from the Director of Employment Standards before entering into an averaging agreement for the purpose of determining the employee’s entitlement to overtime pay, a welcome change for many employers who have historically entered into agreements as required but perhaps not strictly followed the technical requirement of Director approval.
  • Finally, changes affecting “non-construction employers” status would be made to the Labour Relations Act.

It is likely that debate on Bill 66 will take place in February 2019 and the Bill, if enacted as expected, would likely come into force sometime in Spring 2019.

Finally, closing out the year in Conservative labour law style, the legislature has been recalled in order to pass further back-to-work legislation, this time in relation to the Power Workers’ Union and Ontario Power Generation.  As we cap off 2018 and roll into 2019, it is clear that this government is intending to continue taking steps that impact Ontario’s labour and employment landscape.

As always, PooranLaw will continue to track the legal developments most relevant to developmental services and broader public sector employers and provide you with real time updates through our PooranLaw Legal Update Newsletters, our Learn resources, and our blog.