Apr 2

Bill 148, Now Law, Makes Major Changes to Ontario’s Employment Laws, Toronto Employment Lawyer

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Ontario Employment Laws

Bill 148 has been making headlines since it was passed in November of 2017. Most of those headlines have dealt with the minimum wage increase to $14 per hour as of January 1, 2018, $15 per hour as of January 1, 2019 and have included unflattering stories of employers who have come under fire for taking away employee benefits or reducing their workforce as a push to maintain profits with the increase in minimum wage. However, Bill 148 also implemented many other, lesser discussed, changes to employment legislation & Ontario Employment Laws.

The changes include, not exhaustively:

• Equal pay for casual, part-time, temporary and seasonal employees
• Increase in vacation entitlement for certain employees
• Job protected personal emergency leave, including paid sick days
• Job protected, and partially paid, domestic or sexual violence leave
• Ban on requirement of workers to wear elevated (high) heels

Equal pay of casual, part-time, temporary and seasonal employees

As of April 1,2018 all employers and temporary help agencies will now have to pay their casual, part-time, temporary and seasonal employees “who are doing substantially the same work” as full-time/permanent, or employees of the employer client— in the case of temporary help agencies— the same rate of pay.

While equal pay for equal work legislation has previously been provided for in human rights legislation, that legislation required the same rate of pay for all employees regardless of their:

• Race
• Colour
• Ancestry
• Creed (religion)
• Place of Origin
• Ethnic Origin
• Citizenship
• Sex (including pregnancy, gender identity)
• Sexual Orientation
• Age
• Marital Status
• Family Status
• Disability
• Receipt of Public Assistance

However, the equal pay for equal work legislation allowed the employer to distinguish between casual, temporary and part-time employees. These amendments make this no longer the case.

Increase in Vacation Entitlement for Certain Employees

As of January 1, 2018 employees, governed under the Employment Standards Act, 2000 who have been with the same employer for five (5) years, consecutively, or more are now entitled to three (3) weeks of paid vacation (or 6% of pay). This is an increase for longer-term employees from the two-week (4%) entitlement which was previously available to all employees regardless of years of service.

Job protected personal emergency leave, including paid sick days

Another change, as of the beginning of 2018, involves updates to the personal emergency leave for small workplaces. Previously, the legislation provided that workplaces with fifty (50) or more employees had to provide up to ten (10) days of unpaid, job-protected leave each calendar year should the employee become ill, injured or encounter some other personal emergency.

Now the law requires the same job protection for all workplaces, regardless of size, so long as the employee in question has been employed for seven (7) days or longer. This sick leave also requires two (2) out of the ten (10) days to be paid and bans employers from requiring a ‘sick note’ from a doctor when taking this leave.

Job protected, and partially paid, domestic or sexual violence leave

A new type of leave, which can be broken down into two separate entitlements to leave, was also a part of Bill 148. The domestic or sexual violence leave now allows an employee, who has been employed for at least thirteen (13) weeks, to take up to ten (10) individual days and up to fifteen (15) if the employee or their child has experienced or been threatened with domestic or sexual violence and the leave is taken for the purpose of:
• To seek medical attention for the employee or the child of the employee because of a physical or psychological injury or disability caused by domestic or sexual violence;
• To access services from a victim services organization for the employee or the child of the employee;
• To have psychological or other professional counselling for the employee or the child of the employee;
• To move temporarily or permanently; OR
• To seek legal or law enforcement assistance, including making a police report or getting ready for or participating in a family court, civil or criminal trial related to or resulting from the domestic or sexual violence.
The leave can be taken consecutively or separately however a partial day in the 10-day leave and a partial week in the 15-week leave will count as a full-day and full-week, respectively.

The first five (5) days of this leave each year is to be paid.

Ban on requirement of workers to wear elevated heels

This Bill also amended the Occupational Health and Safety Act, banning employers from requiring their workers to wear high heels, unless required for their safety.

The exception to this ban however is if the worker is in the entertainment and advertising industries. The ‘entertainment and advertising industry’ has been defined as “the industry of producing,

(a) live or broadcast performances, or
(b) visual, audio or audio-visual recordings of performances, in any medium or format;
“performance” means a performance of any kind, including theatre, dance, ice skating, comedy, musical productions, variety, circus, concerts, opera, modelling and voice-overs, and “performer” has a corresponding meaning.”

The industry that this change is likely to affect the most is the restaurant or retail industry, where some employers have caused controversy by requiring their female employees to wear high heels during work hours.

If you are an employer who has questions about how these Ontario Employment Laws may affect your business, or if you are an employee who is concerned your employer is not following these laws, you should contact an employment lawyer to determine the rights/entitlement and appropriate next steps.

The author, Samantha Lucifora, is an Associate Lawyer at Monkhouse Law representing both employees and employers regarding workplace and disability issues.

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