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Update: Ontario Liberals announce changes to labour law—and a $15 minimum wage

minimum wagePremier Kathleen Wynne announced which recommendations of the Final Report of the Changing Workplace Review she would like to see implemented, including a $15 minimum wage (see our summary of the Final Report here). While rumours of a $15 minimum wage have been swirling around since the past month (we first reported on it here), the announcement comes as part of the Ontario Liberal’s bigger campaign to protect vulnerable workers. The announcement also confirmed the rumours that annual vacation pay will be rising from two weeks to three weeks for employees that have worked at their jobs for at least five years (this was also recommended in the Final Report).

Throughout this campaign-style announcement it became abundantly clear that the Liberals were going to use this labour reform as a key platform position as they face a tough competition in next Spring’s provincial election. Not only is she hoping to attract support from the 10% of workers that currently rely on Ontario’s $11.40 minimum wage, she is also hoping to alleviate strain on the 30% of workers who earn less than $15 an hour.

The schedule for raising the minimum wage is ambitious and stark—the wage will jump to $14 an hour on January 1, 2018, about six months before the next election. From then, it will take a year to rise to the $15 amount. The provincial Liberals, the NDP and Toronto Mayor John Tory have all confirmed their support to the $15 minimum wage increase and hope to have the amount tied to inflation going forward. Meanwhile, the Ontario Progressive Conservatives have refused to announce their position on the topic, suggesting that they may try to roll back the minimum wage if they were elected into power. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business came out as the strongest opposition to the change, suggesting that small businesses with low profit margins may be forced to terminate employees because of the change.

Additional announced changes were regulations on scheduling practices, including a modified “three hour rule” with no exemptions (i.e. that the employer is required to pay an employee three hours’ wages if they cancel your shift with less than 48 hours notice). The current “3 hour rule” only applies if the employee physically arrives at the workplace. The provincial government also decided to implement the Final Report’s recommendation of changing personal emergency leave, allowing employees to take 10 days of leave per year, two of them paid. The government announced doubling the amount of Ministry of Labour workplace inspectors. Card-based certification for unionization is also making a return in the temporary worker, building services worker and home and community-care worker sectors.

The implementation of the new legislation will occur by 2018. It looks like 2018 will be a big year for Ontario unions, employers and employees.

For additional commentary please see:

Ontario’s minimum wage jumping to $15 in 2019,

Ontario becomes 2nd province to go ahead with $15 an hour minimum wage

Who wins and who loses in Ontario’s decision to raise minimum wage to $15 an hour?

Cheers, criticism greet Ontario plan to raise minimum wage to $15

Ontario’s minimum wage will rise to $15 as of Jan. 1, 2019

By: Marty Rabinovitch and Michelle Cook, Summer Law Student

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Devry Smith Frank LLP

Employment and labour lawyers at Devry Smith Frank LLP
Devry Smith Frank LLP (DSF) is the largest full service law firm in Toronto outside of the downtown core. They offer a broad range of legal services to individual, business and corporate clients in most areas of corporate and personal law. Their firm’s employment law group covers a broad spectrum of HR law, including employment and labour law, occupational health & safety, human rights, workers’ compensation and much more.Lawyers at Devry Smith Frank LLP lead by Marty Rabinovitch B.A.H., LL.B. will be covering issues surrounding employment and labour law and human rights on First Reference Talks. They also provide training, seminars and conferences on the above topics. Read more .
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