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November 24, 2017

Bill 148 Has Passed – Ontario Makes Substantial Changes to its Labour and Employment Laws

Author Seth Holland

Bill 148, the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, 2017 (the “Bill”), which makes extensive changes to Ontario’s labour and employment regime, has passed Third Reading in the Legislative Assembly and will become law in Ontario once it receives Royal Assent (a formality expected to occur in the coming weeks).

The Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs (The “Committee”) made some final  changes to the Bill this week just before it passed Third Reading, which are set out below. For a comprehensive overview of the Bill and the changes being implemented, please refer to our previous blog posts from June 2017, and October 2017.

Further Revisions to the Employment Standards Act, 2000

Family Medical Leave – The entitlement for family medical leave has been increased from 8 to 28 weeks. While it is called family medical leave, it has been expanded so that employees can take this leave to care for a person who considers the employee to be like a family member.

Critical Illness Leave – what was previously “Critical Illness Childcare Leave” has been changed to “Critical Illness Leave” and has been expanded to allow employees to take leave to care for a critically ill adult family member. This provision similarly allows employees to take leave to care for a person who considers the employee to be like a family member. Employees may take up to 17 weeks to care for critically ill adults, and  up to 37 weeks to care for critically ill children.

Domestic or Sexual Violence Leave – This new leave entitlement was originally unpaid but has been changed to provide employees with five (5) days of paid leave per year (with the remainder unpaid).

On-Call Provisions –  As an exemption to the new on-call provisions, employers will not be required to pay employees the minimum three (3) hours’ pay to be on-call if the employee is providing an essential public service, and is not required to work.

Right to Refuse Work – As an exemption to the newly created right to refuse requests to work made with less than 96 hours’ notice,  employees do not have the right to refuse requests to work or be on call with less than 96 hours’ notice if the request is made to ensure the continued delivery of an essential public service.

Further Revisions to the Labour Relations Act

Change Structure of Bargaining Units upon Agreement – Employers and trade unions may now mutually seek consent from the Labour Relations Board (the “Board”) to alter the structure of existing bargaining units. The employer and the union may now agree, on a joint application to the Board, to make certain changes to bargaining units.

Employee Lists – As previously reported, unions can request employee lists before making a certification application if they meet certain requirements. When a union establishes it is entitled to an employee list, the Board may now order that the employee list include additional information such as: (i) information relating to employees, such as their job title and business address, and (ii) other means of contact that have been provided to the employer, other than a home address.

Last Minute Changes to the Occupational Health and Safety Act (“OHSA”)

No “High Heel” Requirements – In a last minute attempt to address the issue of requiring employees to wear high heels in the workplace, the Bill adds a provision to the OHSA that prohibits employers from requiring a worker to wear footwear with an “elevated heel” unless the elevated heel is required for the worker to perform his or her work safely. This high heel restriction does not apply to workers in the entertainment and advertising industry.

Are you compliant?

Bill 148 will now receive Royal Assent and become law in Ontario. Employers should act quickly to ensure their policies are compliant with the changes, as several changes will come in to effect immediately once the Bill receives Royal Asset and many more will come into effect on January 1, 2018.

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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