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More Changes to the Ontario Employment Law Landscape

Bill 66 Restoring Ontario’s Competitiveness Act, 2018

 

Over the last year, Ontario has seen sweeping changes to the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA) and to the Labour Relations Act, 1995 (LRA).  We saw the introduction of Bill 148, the Fair Workplaces, Better Job Act, 2017, as introduced by the Liberal government.  Several sections of Bill 148 were repealed as the Conservative government introduced Bill 47, Making Ontario Open for Business Act, 2018.

December 6, 2018, Bill 66, Restoring Ontario’s Competitiveness Act, 2018 was introduced to the legislature.  The Bill amends 17 pieces of legislation including the ESA, LRA, Agricultural Employees Protection Act (AEPA) and the Pension Benefits Act (PEA).  The amendments are said to minimize regulatory burdens currently faced by employers.  Bill 66 received Royal Assent on April 3, 2019.

Changes to employment related statutes include:

Employment Standards Act, 2000

Excess Weekly Hours of Work section 17.1

Section 17.1 of the ESA required both an agreement with employees and approval from the Director of Employment Standards before permitting employees to work in excess of 48 hours a week.   Bill 66 removes the obligation to obtain Director approval while maintaining the obligation to obtain a written agreement from employees or their bargaining agent to work weekly hours in excess of 48 hours per week.

Overtime Averaging

Sections 22.1 and 22.2 of the ESA are repealed by Bill 66 which removes the prior requirement of Director approval of averaging agreements.  Employers are still required to obtain a written agreement with employees or their bargaining agent for the purpose of overtime averaging.  Employers and employees or their bargaining agent may now average overtime for a period of up to 4 weeks.

ESA Poster

Bill 66 removes the employer’s obligation to post the ESA poster in the workplace.  It is now the Director of Employment Standards and not the Minister of Labour that is required to publish the poster.  Employers are still required to provide a copy of the poster to new employees within the first 30 days of employment as required by section 2(5) of the ESA.

The forgoing amendments to the ESA are effective April 3, 2019

Labour Relations Act (LRA)

Bill 66 affects several broader public sectors such as municipalities, school boards, colleges and universities, public hospitals, local housing corporations and district social services administration boards who carry out construction work and were “certified” under the LRA as employers in the construction industry.  This meant that those broader public sector entities were subject to construction collective agreements even though they do not operate business in the construction industry and restricted the ability to hire non-union workers.

Bill 66 amends the LRA to deem a number of the broader sector entities, for the purpose of the LRA, as non-construction employers.   As a non-construction employer, the entities would no longer be subject to the collective agreement that generally applies to the construction industry removing the prohibition on hiring non-union workers.  Employees who work in the construction industry but for a non-construction employer would still retain the ability to unionize, however, the certification process would be governed by the non-construction certification provisions of the LRA.  The amendments have not yet been proclaimed into effect.

Bill 66 also permits employers to opt out of these provisions by filing an election within 3 months of the date that the Bill received Royal Assent.

Pension Benefits Act (PBA)

Section 80.4(1) of the PBA is repealed by Bill 66.  The section established a framework for mergers of single employer pension plans with jointly sponsored pension plans.  Mergers will not be permitted without requiring government approval.  The amendment is effective April 3, 2019.

Agricultural Employees Protection Act (AEPA)

Bill 66 extends the current coverage of the AEPA to an employee who engages in ornamental horticulture thereby providing the same protections currently available to other agricultural workers.  An ornamental horticulture employee will be exempt from the LRA.  The extended protections and exemption are effective April 3, 2019.

Should you have questions regarding the ever-changing landscape of labour and employment law in Ontario, we encourage you to contact our Labour and Employment Law Department.

 

Leanne Standryk is a senior partner and head of Lancaster Brooks & Welch LLP Labour & Employment department. She may be reached at 905-641-1551

 

The foregoing information is provided to you for information purposes only. We caution you to obtain legal advice specific to your situation in all circumstances.

 

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