Changes coming for Ontario workers

This is a translation of  “Changes coming for Ontario workers”  published in July 2017, produced in English by CLEO (Community Legal Education Ontario). Japanese Social Services is wholly responsible for the accuracy of this translation, produced with permission of CLEO.

Following the release of Ontario’s Changing Workplaces Review report, the government moved quickly to propose changes to the Employment Standards Act.
This month’s On the Radar talks about these changes and how they could affect workers’ rights.
There’s more detailed information about workers’ rights on the Steps to Justice website. And there are links to this information throughout.

Changing the Employment Standards Act

Bill 148, Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, 2017proposes changes to the rules in Ontario’s Employment Standards Act (ESA). The ESA has minimum rules that employers must follow. It applies to most workers in Ontario.
The changes would come into effect if the Bill becomes law. The government is asking people to say what they think about the Bill before Ontario’s Legislative Assembly votes on it.

Increasing the minimum wage

The general minimum wage is $11.40. It goes up to $11.60 on October 1, 2017.
The government wants to raise it to $14.00 on January 1, 2018 and $15.00 on January 1, 2019.
Other minimum wage rates, like student minimum wage, would also go up.

Putting an end to “misclassifying” workers

Some employers insist that workers agree that they’re being hired as “independent contractors”.
An independent contractor is someone who runs their own business. Independent contractors are self-employed and don’t have the same rights as employees.
Employers may do this so they don’t have to follow the legal rules that cover employees. This is called “misclassifying” employees.
Bill 148 says that employers who misclassify their workers are breaking the law and can be punished. For example, an employer who’s found guilty could have to pay a fine.

More vacation days

Most workers have the right to 2 weeks of paid vacation after working 12 months for the same employer.
New rules would give workers the right to 3 weeksof paid vacation after working 5 years for the same employer.

Easier rules about public holiday pay

In most jobs, workers have the right to get a public holiday off with holiday pay.
The rules for figuring out holiday pay are complicated.
New rules would make this easier, which could help workers get what they’re owed.

Paid sick days

Workers can take up to 10 days off in each year as “personal emergency leave”.
But to get this they must work for a company that regularly employs at least 50 workers. And the ESA does not say that employers must pay workers who take this leave.
Bill 148 would give all workers who are covered by the ESA the right to take personal emergency leave. And employers would have to pay for 2 of those days.

Claiming rights as a worker

When an employer does not follow the law, a worker may be able to make a claim with the Ministry of Labour.
But in most cases, a worker is supposed to contact the employer before making a claim.
Bill 148 would change the rules so that workers don’t have to do this.
And if the Ministry of Labour orders an employer to pay wages that they owe, the Ministry’s order can say that the employer must also pay interest on those unpaid wages.

More changes

These are just some of the changes to the ESA that Bill 148 proposes. The Bill is not yet law and what it says could change before it becomes law.
But advocates for workers are hopeful that the changes we’ve highlighted here will take effect.

Help for workers

If workers are having problems with their employer, they can contact a community legal clinic or an organization that deals with workers’ rights.

This email alert gives general legal information. It is not a substitute for getting legal advice about a particular situation.

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