Bill 148 – Other Changes to Employment Laws in Ontario

Bill 148, the Fair Wages, Better Workplaces Act, 2017, is one of the largest overhauls to Ontario’s employment laws in decades. The change that has garnered the most attention is the increase in the minimum wage to $14.00 per hour; however, there are a number of other changes that employers and employees alike have to be familiar with to comply with their obligations.  The following note provides a sample of a few of the changes that workers in Ontario must be apprised of:

No Sick Notes – an employee calling in sick is no longer required to provide a sick note from a doctor to substantiate the medical leave. We have often confronted problems when employees take unjustified or unsubstantiated absences, which can lead to allegations of just cause for dismissal. The threshold for just cause has been raised by the introduction of this law, as employees have such limited obligation to their employers if they are unable to attend work due to a sickness.  The rationale for this policy is partially to free up doctors’ time to attend to other patients rather than write sick notes for absentee employees.

Vacation Pay Changes – employees that have been employed with the same employer for more than 5 years are now entitled to a minimum statutory vacation of 3-weeks per year; whereas workers with less than 5 years of tenure with an employer continue to be entitled to 2-weeks of vacation pay per year.

Scheduling Rules – employees have the right to request a change to their schedule or location after three (3) months on a job; employees can refuse shifts without reprisal if they are notified 96 hours or less prior to the start of the shift.

Personal Leave Enhancements – Previously, only companies with 50 or more employees were statutorily mandated to require personal emergency leave; workers of all employers, regardless of size, are now entitled to 10 personal emergency leave days per year, the first of 2 which must be paid.

Compliance with the above-referenced changes to Ontario’s employment laws as introduced by Bill 148 is mandatory. Employers should ensure that they are complying with their statutory obligations to avoid any complaints and potentially penalties issued by the Ministry of Labour. For further information on all of the changes introduced by Bill 148, employers and employees are advised to contact an employment lawyer well-versed in the legislation.