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October 27, 2017

Bill 148 - One Step Closer to Becoming Law

Authors Amelia Cooke and Seth Holland

On October 18th, Bill 148, the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, 2017 (the “Bill”) passed second reading in the Legislative Assembly, bringing Ontario one step closer to sweeping changes to its employment law landscape. The Bill proposes to make a number of changes to Ontario’s employment and labour legislation which are outlined in detail in our June 2017 blog post.

After passing second reading, the Bill was referred back to the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs (the “Committee”) for the second time. The Committee, which held multiple days of hearings on the Bill throughout Ontario this summer, has announced it intends to hold additional public hearings on the Bill in Toronto on October 30th, 31st and November 2nd.

When the Committee first considered the Bill, it made several changes to the original draft which are outlined in detail below. The Committee’s second consultation and review could lead to further changes to the Bill.

To get you up to speed, here are some of the notable changes the Committee has made to the Bill thus far:

New Domestic or Sexual Violence Leave – The Committee introduced a new standalone leave for employees who are victims of domestic or sexual violence. The new provision will allow employees to take up to ten (10) days and up to fifteen (15) weeks of unpaid leave if they or their children experience domestic or sexual violence, or the threat of domestic or sexual violence.

Extensions to Pregnancy and Parental Leave – The Committee increased the length of job-protected pregnancy and parental leave to compliment the federal government’s newly-extended Employment Insurance (“EI”) entitlements for new parents. The allowances for parental leave have nearly doubled, increasing to 61 weeks for employees who took a pregnancy leave and 63 weeks for employees who did not take a pregnancy leave. The Committee also changed the Bill to increase the length of leave for women who experience a still-birth or miscarriage from six (6) weeks to twelve (12) weeks.

Personal Emergency Leave – One of the more surprising aspects of the Bill was its expansion of personal emergency leave entitlements to provide employees with two paid days of personal emergency leave and eight unpaid days. The Committee added language to the Bill to clarify that an employee must have worked for their employer for at least one week in order to qualify for the two paid days of leave.

Record-Keeping Requirements – The Committee added to the record-keeping requirements for employers, who will be required to keep additional records for a period of five (5) years including: work and on call schedules, information related to vacation pay, and documents related to the new domestic and sexual violence leave.

Scheduling Requirements – The Committee also added some clarification to the new scheduling provisions outlined in the Bill, including: 

  • Right to Refuse Work on Short Notice: An employee will not be covered by the new right to refuse work on less than 96 hours notice if the request pertains to: an emergency; to remedy or reduce a threat to public safety; or other reasons that may be prescribed.

     

  • Cancellation Pay: Employees will not be entitled to three (3) hours’ pay when their shift is cancelled within 48 hours of its start if: the work is unavailable due to causes out of the employer’s control; the nature of the employee’s work is weather-dependent; or for other reasons that may be prescribed.

     

  • Three Hour Rule: Where an employee is scheduled to work or be on call, and is required to work or be on call for less than three hours, the employee will be entitled to three hours’ pay only if they were available to work longer than three (3) hours.

Public Holiday Pay – The Committee scrapped the Bill’s initial proposal to remove the option to substitute a day off with public holiday pay when employees are required to work on a public holiday. Accordingly, employees will still have the option of substituting a day off when required to work on a public holiday. However, employers will be required to provide employees with a written statement before the public holiday which sets out which public holiday will be worked and the date of the substitute day off.

Next Steps

The Committee will be holding public hearings on October 30, 31 and November 2 to discuss the Bill and may make further changes to the Bill as a result. Once the Committee has completed its review of the Bill, it will be reported back to the Legislative Assembly with any further amendments, ordered for third reading in the Legislative Assembly, and voted upon for final approval.

We will continue to track developments on the Bill and provide updates on its progress on our blog.

The foregoing is for informational purposes only, and should in no way be relied upon as legal advice. For legal advice tailored to your circumstances and business, please contact any of SOM LLP’s lawyers by email or telephone.
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