Recent Changes to Employment Laws

Many of you may know that the Employment Standards Act was recently amended to increase the general minimum wage to $14 per hour. This was widely reported in the mainstream media. A number of other important changes received very little attention. Some changes include:
  1. New and extended leaves of absence for:
    • pregnancy leave
    • parental leave
    • critical illness leave to care for a critically ill child or adult family member (if employed for at least 6 months)
    • personal emergency leave (without a doctor's note, but the employer may require other evidence)
    • family medical leave (with note indicating a family member has a serious medical condition with a significant risk of death in 26 weeks or less)
    • domestic or sexual violence leave for the employee or his/her child
    • child death leave and crime-related child disappearance leave.
  2. Increased vacation entitlement for employees with more than five years of service (increases from two weeks' to three weeks' paid vacation).
April 1, 2018 On April 1, 2018, further changes to the Employment Standards Act will come into force to require equal pay for equal work. This means employers cannot pay casual, part-time, temporary or seasonal employees at a rate of pay that is less than the rate paid to full-time employees where the work is substantially the same. There are exceptions to the equal pay rules, such as to permit differences in pay due to merit or seniority. January 1, 2019 As if the above wasn't enough for employers and employees to adapt to, on January 1, 2019 more changes will take place. The general minimum wage will increase to $15 per hour. Again, there are exceptions for some employees. A change that may be critical to some condominiums is the new rules for scheduling employees. Employees who are "on-call" and not called into work, or who are called into work but work less than three hours, must be paid for three hours work even if they did not work for the full three hours. Other Changes   The above commentary is applicable for many workers in Ontario, but there were also significant changes to labour laws for unionized employees and employers on January 1, 2018. Any condominiums with unionized employees, like security personnel, should consult with a labour law specialist to ensure they are complying with the new requirements. Last year, the Occupational Health and Safety Act was amended to prohibit employers from requiring employees to wear footwear with an elevated heel (i.e. high heels). There are a few exceptions. Hooray! What does all of this mean for employers? A few things. First, budgets might need to be reviewed to ensure there is sufficient money put aside to pay employees with the changes to the minimum wage, vacation entitlement, and leaves of absence. Second, employment contracts may need some work to reflect the new changes. Most provisions cannot be contracted out of so the legislation will prevail if there is an inconsistency between the law and the contract, but the inconsistencies could cause confusion or disagreements. Third, some policies and procedures might need to be updated to reflect the changes. Given the number of changes, it might be worthwhile to discuss these matters with a lawyer who is familiar with employment law. Another item that might not have been budgeted for this year...