The Ontario legislature is poised to make more changes to employment and labour legislation. There have been a number of important changes to the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA) and to the Labour Relations Act, 1995 (LRA), in the past year. Initially, the Liberal government made a number of significant reforms by adopting Bill 148, Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, 2017, into law in late 2017. A year later, the current Conservative government repealed most of the changes introduced by Bill 148, by adopting into law Bill 47, Making Ontario Open for Business Act, 2018, effectively making what was old, new again.
On Dec. 6, 2018, the legislature again introduced new changes to the statutory labour and employment regime of the province. While Bill 66, Restoring Ontario's Competitiveness Act, makes changes to a wide swath of laws, the ESA and the LRA are subject to some new tweaks.
Employment Standards Act, 2000
Currently under the ESA, an employee and her employer can agree that the employee will have a schedule of more than 48 hours per week, but less than 60 hours per week. A significant change contemplated in Bill 66 is the repeal of the 60-hour-per-week cap. If Bill 66 come into law, an employee and her employer will be able to agree to a work schedule with any number of hours. In addition, agreements allowing employees to work more than 48 hours a week for their employers no longer require the approval of the Director of Employment Standards.
The ESA also sets out certain requirements for employers and employees to make overtime-averaging agreements. Overtime-averaging agreements allow overtime pay entitlements to be determined by using an average of an employee's work hours. Bill 66 proposed two changes regarding overtime-averaging:
• Presently the period used for determining the average is not limited. Whereas Bill 66 contemplates that overtime be averaged over a period of not more than four weeks
• The Director of Employment Standards will no longer need to approve overtime-averaging agreements between an employee and her employer.
Finally, employers will not be required to display in their workplace a poster with information about ESA entitlements and their regulations prepared by the government.
Labour Relations Act, 1995
Bill 66 redefines a "non-construction employer" to the exclusion of municipalities and certain local boards, school boards, hospitals, colleges, universities and public bodies. If the bill passes into law, trade unions in the construction industry will no longer represent employees working for those non-construction employers. Any collective agreement in place with respect to those specific employees will cease to apply to them.
André Poulin-Denis is an associate with Gowling WLG in Ottawa, practicing employment and labour law. He can be reached at (613) 233-1781 ext. 50049 or firstname.lastname@example.org.