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Ontario Employers Face New Obligations

2015 Changes to the Employment Standards Act Will Increase Liability and Responsibilities of Ontario Employers

Bill 18, the Stronger Workplaces for a Stronger Economy Act, 2014, received royal assent in November 2014.  This Bill amends various workplace legislation and imposes new liability and requirements to Ontario employers.  The most significant of these amendments take effect in 2015, which include:

Employment Standards Act, 2000:

  • Effective February 20, 2015, the $10,000.00 cap on awards for unpaid wages under the ESA was removed – it is now unlimited.  Previously claimants’ options were limited since the option of pursuing wages above $10,000.00 mark through a civil claim is often cost prohibitive.  This change will likely see more employees proceeding by way of a claim to the Ministry of Labour.
  • Effective February 20, 2015, the time limit in which employees can bring claims for unpaid wages was increased to 2 years.  This is comparable to the limitation period to bring a civil action in Ontario.  This change is only applicable to wages and pay that become due on or after February 20, 2015.
  • Effective May 20, 2015, all employers must post the latest version of the Ministry of Labour’s informational poster in the workplace, and provide a copy of the poster to all current employees by no later than June 20, 2015. New employees must receive a copy within the first 30 days of employment.
  • Effective May 20, 2015, The Ministry of Labour can order employers to conduct and submit self-audits with respect to their ESA compliance.
  • Effective September 30, 2015, annual increases in minimum wage will reflect changes in the Consumer Price Index of Ontario.
  • Effective on November 20, 2015, employers and temporary help agencies will be jointly and severally liable for wages owed to workers.  Also, employers and agencies are subject to enhanced record keeping requirements, and must keep records of workers’ hours for a minimum of 3 years.

Occupational Health and Safety Act, 1990:

  • Effective November 20, 2014, the definition of “worker” under the Occupational Health and Safety Act was broadened to include unpaid workers such as interns, co-op students or workers in unpaid training programs.

Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, 1997:

  • The Government has been given authority to enact regulations under the WSIA which would effectively make employers who use workers from temporary help agencies responsible for the costs of temp employee injury and accidents costs, WSIB premiums and WSIB notification obligations.  No such regulations have been enacted yet.

Employment Protection for Foreign Nationals Act, 2009:

  • Effective November 20, 2015, this Act will apply to all foreign nationals working or attempting to work in Ontario through immigration or foreign employee programs.  It will also apply to those who employ or recruit such individuals.  Previously, the protections in this Act applied primarily to live-in caregivers.

Labour Relations Act, 1995:

  • Effective May 20, 2015, the LRA will be amended in relation to the construction industry.  These changes will shorten the period, from 3 to 2 months, during which a trade union may apply to the Ontario Labour Relations Board for certification to represent a group of employees who are already represented by a union.  The amendment also similarly shortens the time period in which the employees can apply to terminate the bargaining rights of a union.

Although some of these changes will not take effect immediately, the passing of Bill 18 results in new obligations for Ontario employers. In order to ensure compliance, employers should be aware of these provisions and amend their workplace policies and procedures accordingly.

If you have any questions about these legislative changes and their impact on your workplace or employment, or any workplace issue, please feel free to contact us.