Ontario’s government has enacted a new Bill, as of January 1, 2018, and spanning to January 2019, to overhaul rules in the workplace, create a safe environment and provide a livable wage. With such large reform to Ontario workplaces, the Bill has created much talk in both social and political circles. Bill 148, regardless of it criticism or praise, was created and implemented in order to make the workplace a better environment for Ontario’s workers.
Bill 148, The Main Points
The raise of minimum wage
This is arguably the biggest change under Bill 148. And of course, this has caused a rift in social and political groups. When it fell into effect on January 1, 2018, it took the media by storm. However, even before its implementation, there were strong arguments raised by both sides about how the proposed livable wage will impact small businesses and franchisees.
- As of January 1, 2018, the minimum wage rate rose to $14.00 per hour.
- January 1. 2019 will see it rise to $15.00.
- After this second raise, it will be indexed with inflation. The first of which will be announced in the spring of 2019, and enacted in October of the same year.
There are significant changes in the Bill regarding the amount of vacation time allotted to some employees. As of January 1, 2018, employees who have been with a company for a minimum of five years are now allotted three weeks of vacation time under Bill 148.
Additionally, vacation pay will rise to six percent for employees who have worked for a company for five years as well.
Personal emergency leave
This is one of the biggest changes that was seen in Bill 148. Under the Bill, any employee – who has been employed for at least seven days – is fully entitled to 10 days of personal emergency leave (each calendar year). Within these 10 days, the first two days must be paid at the employee’s regular rate.
This leave can be taken for numerous reasons. Including:
- A medical emergency, including personal illness
- The medical emergency of a loved one, including death, illness or serious injury
- Any urgent matter concerning a loved one
The Bill defines a loved one as a family member, significant other or someone that the employee considers to be family.
Note: An employer is not allowed to request a doctor’s note as proof for the personal emergency leave.
There are a few highlights surrounding unionization of a workforce under the Bill. One of these highlights is Card-based Union Certification. This means that if the workplace falls under a temporary help agency, building services or home care/community services and more than 55 per cent of the employees sign union cards, then the business can be unionized without a ballot vote.
Another highlight that was seen under the Bill is a change to Union Access to Employee Information. This means that if 20 per cent of a workforce sign up for unionization, the union may ask and obtain access to the contact information of all workplace employees through the Ontario Labour Relations Board. This pertains to all businesses in any industry sector.
Enforcement of employment standards
With Ontario’s government aiming to alter many workplace rules that may seem antiquated, they are needed to enforce the new standards. To do that, they are allocating new resources to help see the changes through.
Beginning January 1st, 2018, the government is looking to hire and implement 175  employment standards inspectors. These new inspectors will be hired by 2020-2021, and will be in place to ensure that the new rules under the Bill are being properly followed and implemented within Ontario’s workplaces.
Additionally, the fines for enforcement violations have increased by nearly 30 per cent, and aside from having to pay a larger fine, employers may also be named by the Ministry of Labour publicly on their website.
What we’ll see in 2019
It will not only be the rising increments of a minimum wage that we will see carried over into 2019 under Bill 148. There will also be significant changes to Scheduling. The Bill will see changes to scheduling that will affect shift cancellations, on-call employees and new shift scheduling.
The changes will make it mandatory that shift cancellations must be made at least 48 hours in advance of the scheduled shift. If it does not meet the 48 hour requirement then the employer is responsible for paying the employee for at least three hours of work at their regular wage.
However, this change is not applicable if the employee’s work is “weather-dependent and the employer is unable to provide work for the employee for weather-related reasons.”
For employees who are on-call for a day, are now entitled to be paid for at least three hours of work at their regular wage. This is to be paid out regardless of whether or not the “on-call” employee gets called in to work or not.
With the addition of any shift to a schedule, the employee must be given 96 hours notice. Additionally, if the employee is given a shift under that 96-hour threshold, they are entitled to turn the shift down and avoid any negative repercussions.
Bill 148, Moving forward
Ontario has already seen some drastic changes in the workplace. These changes will continue into the next calendar year with the full intention of making the workplace a more comfortable and equal environment for Ontarians.
While this is just a general summary of Bill 148 and what was laid out to change, it shows how the employee has come to be equal in the workplace. Regardless of the political criticism or the social praise that Bill 148 has been receiving in these early months of 2018, the changes that have been enacted and the ones that have been proposed are all in place to ensure that the employee is treated as a person and not just another number to crunch in corporate data.