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Bill 47 Proposes to Repeal Workplace Reforms

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On October 23, 2018, the Conservative-led Government of Ontario announced Bill 47, Making Ontario Open for Business Act, 2018. If Bill 47 passes, it would make a number of significant changes to the Employment Standards Act, 2000 and the Labour Relations Act, 1995, including repeals of many of the workplace reforms made last year by the then-Liberal government.

Shortly ahead of the provincial election, the Liberal government had passed Bill 148, Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, 2017, which provided for increases to the minimum wage, paid emergency leave, and equal pay for equal work, among other reforms. Another notable change in Bill 148 was the introduction of a statutory “reverse onus”, which required businesses to justify their classification of a worker as an independent contractor. Under this rule, a worker was presumed to be an employee unless the business was able to prove otherwise.

Following the election, it was widely expected that the new Conservative government would move to reverse many of the changes made by Bill 148. The proposed Bill 47 does exactly that. Some highlights are as follows:

Minimum Wage

Bill 148 had increased the minimum wage to $14 an hour, with a further increase to $15 an hour planned to come into effect on January 1, 2019. Bill 47 would maintain the minimum wage at $14 but would freeze it at this level through 2019. Annual adjustments to the minimum wage would restart in 2020, with increases tied to inflation.

Scheduling

Bill 47 would repeal certain scheduling provisions that are coming into force on January 1, 2019, including the following:

  • Minimum of three hours' pay for being on-call if the employee is available to work but is not called in to work, or works less than three hours;
  • Right to refuse requests or demands to work or to be on-call on a day that an employee is not scheduled to work or to be on-call with less than 96 hours' notice; and
  • Three hours' pay in the event of cancellation of a scheduled shift or an on-call shift within 48 hours before the shift was to begin.

Personal Emergency Leave

The ten days of personal emergency leave (two paid, eight unpaid) provided by Bill 148 would be repealed and replaced with three sick days, two bereavement days, and three days for family responsibilities (for a total of eight days, all unpaid).

Equal Pay for Equal Work

While Bill 47 would maintain the requirement for equal pay on the basis of sex, it would repeal the requirement for equal pay for equal work on the basis of employment status (part-time, casual, or temporary) and assignment employee status (temporary help agency status).

Employee Misclassification

Bill 47 would repeal the “reverse onus” requirement on employers to prove that an individual is not an employee where there is a dispute over whether the individual is an employee. This would put the onus back on individuals to justify their classification as employees or independent contractors.

While Bill 47 is not yet law, it is expected to move quickly through the legislature, given that it plans to repeal certain changes coming into effect on January 1, 2019. In the meantime, businesses should stay up-to-date on the status of Bill 47, as it will have a significant impact on their workplace obligations.

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