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Susan MacMillan is a Professional Support Lawyer in the Employment & Compensation Group in Toronto. Susan is passionate about exploring new developments in Canadian and global employment law and their implications for employers. Prior to joining Baker McKenzie, Susan had a broad employment law practice at a full-service, national firm. She was also seconded to a Canadian chartered bank as Legal Counsel in the bank’s Employment Law Group. Susan holds an LL.M. from the University of Toronto where her thesis focused on the interaction between seniority rights and the duty to accommodate.

The Ontario government introduced Bill 66, Restoring Ontario’s Competitiveness Act  (“Bill 66”) on December 6, 2018. If passed, Bill 66 will make amendments to several pieces of legislation in Ontario. The government has stated that its objective in introducing these changes is to “lower business costs to make Ontario more competitive” and to “harmonize regulatory requirements with other jurisdictions, end duplication and reduce barriers to investment.” We outline below the proposed changes to the province’s labour and employment legislation below.

Key takeaways

Employers should not alter their policies or practices to reflect Bill 66…yet. Employers can anticipate that the government will move quickly in advancing Bill 66 through the legislative process. The swift rate at which Bill 47 and Bill 57 were implemented is likely to be repeated in the case of Bill 66.

Proposed changes to the Employment Standards Act (“ESA”)

If Bill 66 is implemented in its current form, the ESA would be amended such that employers would no longer be required to obtain the Director of Employment Standards’s approval to make agreements to:

  1. permit their employees to exceed 48 hours of work in a work week; or
  2. allow averaging of an employee’s hours of work for the purpose of determining the employee’s entitlement to overtime pay.

Under Bill 66, the employer would be able to average the employee’s hours of work over a period not exceeding four weeks in accordance with the terms of an averaging agreement between the employer and the employee. Existing overtime averaging agreements in unionized workplaces would continue to be effective until a subsequent collective agreement comes into effect.

The current requirement to obtain the Director’s approval for excess hours and overtime averaging agreements came into effect in 2005 under the Liberal government. The provisions were controversial at the time due to the administrative burden placed on employers to obtain these approvals.

In addition, Bill 66 contemplates that employers would no longer be required to post a poster in their workplaces to provide information to employees about the ESA and its regulations.

Proposed changes to the Labour Relations Act (“LRA”)

The LRA has a unique set of rules for certifying unions in the construction industry that can result in province-wide, multi-employer collective agreements. Currently, employers subject to this regime whose primary business is not construction may apply to the Ontario Labour Relations Board to be declared a “non-construction employer” under the LRA, relieving them of their obligation to comply with the terms of these collective agreements.

If Bill 66 passes, designated employers, including municipalities, school boards, hospitals, colleges and universities, will be deemed to be “non-construction employers” under the LRA. Designated employers will be released from the obligations established under the “construction provisions” of the LRA. In some cases, this will enable designated employers to tender construction projects to non-union contractors and/or negotiate agreements specific to the circumstances of their sector.

We will continue to monitor the status of Bill 66 and report on its progress.

– Many thanks to Shereen Aly for her assistance with this article.

On November 15, 2018, the Ontario government introduced legislation to, among other things, delay the January 1, 2019 in force date of the Pay Transparency Act, 2018  (“Act”). Bill 57, Restoring Trust, Transparency and Accountability Act, 2018, is omnibus legislation to enact, amend and repeal various statutes and is currently at the Second Reading stage. Continue Reading Ontario Proposes Delay & Rethinking of Pay Transparency Act

On November 21, 2018, Bill 47, Making Ontario Open for Business Act, 2018  (“Bill 47”), passed Third Reading and received Royal Assent. Bill 47 repeals or rewrites numerous provisions of the previous government’s Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, 2017  (“Bill 148”). To help employers navigate and prepare for the many changes under Bill 47, we have summarized the key changes and what is left intact. Continue Reading Ontario’s Bill 47 Gets Green Light

On October 23, 2018, the Ontario government introduced Bill 47, Making Ontario Open For Business Act, 2018, to repeal numerous provisions of the previous government’s Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, 2017  (Bill 148). The government indicated that the proposed amendments are designed to “remove the worst burdens that prevent Ontario businesses from creating jobs while expanding opportunities for workers.” We outline the key provisions of Bill 47 below. Continue Reading Ontario Government Introduces Bill 47 to Reverse Most of Bill 148

Ontario employers who conduct police record checks for hiring or other purposes should be aware that new legislation comes into force on November 1, 2018. The Police Record Checks Reform Act, 2015  and its Regulations will apply to checks conducted on a Canadian police database. At present, police record checks are not regulated and practices vary depending upon where the check is completed. As of November 1, the process and contents of police record checks will be standardized in Ontario. Below, we outline what you need to know about the new requirements. Continue Reading Conducting a Police Record Check? What You Need to Know for November 1

Ontario’s revised regulatory framework for cannabis is now in effect. Bill 36, the Cannabis Statute Law Amendment Act, 2018, received Royal Assent and came into force on October 17, 2018, amending 18 provincial statutes including the Cannabis Act, 2017  (now the Cannabis Control Act, 2017 ) and the Smoke-Free Ontario Act, 2017  (SFOA 2017).

Prior to Bill 36, recreational cannabis and medical cannabis were to be regulated separately, and consuming recreational cannabis in a “workplace” or “public place” (both broadly defined and not limited to enclosed areas) was to be entirely prohibited. Bill 36 effectively eliminates the distinction between recreational cannabis and medical cannabis for the purposes of regulating public consumption (among other things). To help employers adjust to the new reality of legalized cannabis, we outline below key aspects of the new legislation. Continue Reading It’s High Time: Ontario Finally Passes its Cannabis and Smoke-Free Legislation

One of the clearest messages from the #MeToo movement has been that sexual harassers need to be held accountable for their actions. This message has resonated with employers and most now appreciate that they need to promptly investigate and appropriately address misconduct once they become aware of it. But employer obligations extend beyond remedial action and include, in Ontario and other jurisdictions, implementing preventative policies and educating employees on the policies.

However, a new US research report indicates that policies aren’t enough and employers need to pay attention to certain warning signs in the workplace to effectively stem sexual harassment. The report’s authors contend that organizational climate is the greatest determinant of sexual harassment occurring in a workplace. In fact, corporate culture can either encourage or discourage an employee to harass, according to the authors. Continue Reading Is Your Workplace Prone to Sexual Harassment? 5 Warning Signs to Watch For

The Ontario government has introduced proposed amendments to the province’s regulatory framework for cannabis. If passed, Bill 36, the Cannabis Statute Law Amendment Act, 2018, will alter the newly-introduced Cannabis Act, 2017  (not yet in force) and other provincial legislation to reflect the current government’s plan for dealing with the legalization of recreational cannabis on October 17, 2018. Continue Reading Legalization is in the Air – Ontario Moves to Amend Previous Government’s Cannabis Legislation

Earlier this year, the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) refused the union’s leave application in Suncor Energy Inc v Unifor Local 707A, 2017 ABCA 313 (Suncor ) thereby leaving the Alberta Court of Appeal’s (ABCA) ruling intact. The ABCA had held that evidence of substance-related safety risks across an employer’s workforce (including both union and non-union workers) may be taken into account when assessing the permissibility of random testing of unionized workers.

Suncor  is a favourable result for employers because it is in step with taking a holistic approach to workplace safety. But it is by no means a green light for drug and alcohol testing in the workplace. With the legalization of recreational use of cannabis fast approaching, we outline the current state of the law and key best practices for workplace impairment testing. Continue Reading Legalization Draws Near, Where are We Now on Employee Testing?

Ontario universities and publicly-funded colleges are now required to develop and publicly post a free speech policy by January 1, 2019. No Bill has yet been introduced to detail these requirements. However, the government outlined the minimum standard for the policy and related requirements in a communication issued by the Office of the Premier on August 30, 2018. Continue Reading Ontario Moves to Protect Free Speech on Campus: Universities and Colleges Must Develop Free Speech Policy