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Changes Coming to Workplace Law- Are You Ready?

Yesterday was a historic day for Ontario workers: Premier Kathleen Wynne announced approval of many changes to the current (and arguably somewhat antiquated) Employment Standards Act (ESA). The adjustments are aimed at offering better protection to vulnerable populations of employees (students, temporary workers, minimum wage workers), and the proposed changes include significant reform across multiple areas of the ESA. While considered a big win for employees across Ontario- the announcement struck a much different chord with small business owners. It's important to note this bill has not yet been passed into law, although it is widely expected to do so. Below are the highlights of the proposed changes and what it will mean for your business.


Minimum Wage. Rates to be raised in line with rate of inflation; increases to be phased in.

  • Minimum wage to increase as follows:

  • General $11.60 (Oct 1/17); $14.00 (Jan 1/18); $15.00 (Jan 1/19)

  • Students $10.90 (Oct 1/17); $13.15 (Jan 1/18); $14.10 (Jan 1/19)

  • Liquor servers $10.10 (Oct 1/17); $12.20 (Jan 1/18); $13.05 (Jan 1/19

Types of Pay. This will impact businesses who frequently use contingency workers- part time or temporary agency workers for example.

  • Casual, part-time, temporary and seasonal employees will be required to be paid at the same rate as full time employees doing the same work

  • Temporary help agency workers will be entitled to notice of termination

Shifts/ Scheduling. Less flexibility to change employees' schedules.

  • Minimum 3 hours pay at regular rate of pay for any employee who:

  • Regularly works more than 3 hours and is given less than 3 hours of work;Is “on-call” but not called into work; or

  • Has a shift cancelled by employer on less than 48-hours’ notice

  • Right to request scheduling or location changes after 3 months of employment

  • Ability to refuse shifts which are offered on less than 4 days’ notice

Employee Rights expansion.

  • Right to request a review of their wages with a corresponding obligation on the employer to respond in writing

  • Default presumption that workers are employees: misclassifying employees as independent contractors will have financial penalties

  • Employer prohibited from requesting doctor’s note for employee taking sick day(s)

Paid Time Off. In keeping with other provinces, minimum vacation entitlement will increase with tenure. All employees entitled to sick days regardless of size of business.

  • Increase paid vacation entitlement to 3 weeks after 5 years of service

  • Simplification of the calculation for calculating public holiday pay

  • Eliminate current 50 employee threshold for Personal Emergency Leave (sick days)

  • All employees to be entitled to 10 Personal Emergency Leave days, 2 of which must be paid


  • Additional Employment Standards officers to be hired to ensure organizations are in compliance with all legislation- likely performing additional inspection blitzes across targeting small business.


While these are significant proposed changes, there are ways to minimize impact by utilizing employment contracts and employee policy handbooks to their fullest benefit. Contact us to discuss options to maximize compliance while reducing risk and costs to your business.

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