Good news and bad news

Reversal of previous Ontario government’s employment standards changes brings reprieve for employers, disenchantment for employees?
By Joel Smith
|Canadian Employment Law Today|Last Updated: 01/09/2019

The Ontario government’s recent passing of Bill 47, the Making Ontario Open for Business Act, 2018, has offered a regulatory reprieve for Ontario businesses still reeling from the earlier, transformative package of labour and employment law changes introduced with Bill 148, The Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, 2017.

The latter was, of course, the previous Ontario Liberal government’s attempt to level the labour playing field by modernizing the province’s Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA) and Labour Relations Act, 1995 (LRA). It was roundly criticized by many in the business community who argued that the changes went too far, too fast and compromised their ability to compete. Since then, the controversial Pay Transparency Act has also been indefinitely shelved — the legislation would have required larger employers to publicize gender-based compensation gaps, required all employers to include salary ranges in public job postings, and prohibited reprisal against employees who discussed their wages, among other measures. Bill 66, the Restoring Ontario’s Competitiveness Act, 2018, which would make it easier to have employees work more than 48 hours per week and to average employees’ wages over up to four weeks in calculating overtime pay, was also tabled in December and will likely become law in early 2019. These changes, along with the passage of Bill 47, underscore the provincial Conservatives’ intent to roll back any recent employment law amendment they deem bad for business.

Indeed, Ontario Premier Doug Ford promised to do away with many of Bill 148’s worker-friendly amendments and he delivered on this promise in November when Bill 47 became law. While a more detailed overview of Bill 47’s ESA amendments can be found in my article “An employment standards U-turn in Ontario,” (Canadian Employment Law Today, Nov. 21, 2018), below I’ve highlighted some of Bill 47’s key ESA and LRA amendments: