Ontario Passes the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, 2017

Ontario Bill 148 was passed this November, making significant amendments to the Employment Standards Act and related legislation.

Changes to leave and vacation allowances

Employees that have been working for the same employer for five years will now be entitled to three weeks of vacation instead of two, with a corresponding 6% vacation pay instead of 4%. In addition, all employees are also allowed up to ten days of “personal emergency leave,” two of which must be paid by their employer. New parents will be able to take up to 63 weeks of parental leave, depending on whether they are also taking pregnancy leave.

A new category of “domestic or sexual violence leave” will cover employees who have suffered – or whose child has suffered – sexual or domestic violence or threats. Employees caring for a critically ill family member may also take up to 37 weeks of leave out of 52 to care for a critically ill child, and 17 weeks to care for an adult family member.

Focus on equality for women in the workplace

While the leave provisions described above are non-gendered, they are expected to advance gender equality in the workplace. Statistically, women are more likely to miss work to care for children and others, and are significantly more likely to suffer domestic violence. In addition, women with caregiving responsibilities stand to benefit from new provisions relating to requests for flexible hours, location changes or remote work. If an employee of at least three months makes such a request in writing, then the employer must discuss that request with the employee and provide reasons if it is denied.

The changes include several designed to eliminate inequality and sexism traditionally faced by women in the workplace. The Bill codifies a requirement that employers give equal pay for substantially similar work. The Bill also addresses workplace dress codes, with a ban on any requirement that employees wear “elevated footwear” unless it is required for the job.

Legal advice for employers and employees about Bill 148 and their workplace

At Duncan, Linton LLP, our employment law team can offer advice to employers about how new legislation might impact their workplace. Companies should consider reviewing their policies, training, procedures and precedents to ensure that they are prepared. We can also advise employers about their rights under the new law, including issues relating to leave, and workplace rights to equality. To make an appointment to discuss your legal needs or questions with one of our lawyers, contact us online or call 519-886-3340 to make an appointment.