New labour laws in Ontario – what are my rights?

On November 22, Bill 148 was voted into law, ushering in a number of substantial changes to our outdated employment laws.

This overhaul to both the Ontario Labour Relations and Employment Standards Acts are the result of years of community and labour organizing, mobilizing and advocating for change.

Here’s what the new laws mean for workers:

Raising the standard

  • An increase in the minimum wage to $14 on January 1, 2018 and to $15 on January 1, 2019. This will result in a 29% pay increase for the lowest paid Ontarians over two years.
  • Equal pay for equal work for part-time, temporary and casual workers that are doing substantially the same work as full-time workers.
  • New rights for temporary agency workers. Temp workers must be paid the same wage as the regular/permanent full-time worker doing the same job, and termination notice and termination pay must be given to those workers with more than three months of service.
  • Fairer scheduling practices will mean three hours of pay for on-call duty, protected refusal of shifts with short notice and three hours of pay for cancelled shifts with less than 48 hours of notice.
  • Stronger enforcement and higher fines for employers who violate the law.

Improvements to time off the job

  • Two paid personal emergency leave days, with eight additional unpaid days. It now applies to organizations of all sizes, not just organizations employing 50 people or more. As with all employment standards, these new rules will apply unless a collective agreement provides different rules. In most cases, the collective agreement must provide a greater benefit in order for the Employment Standards Act not to apply. It is possible that some industry-specific regulations will modify these rules for workers in the auto sector. 
  • Support for domestic violence survivors that includes five paid days leave for domestic violence survivors and up to a total of 10 days off, plus an additional unpaid, job-protected 15 weeks.
  • Mandatory minimum of three weeks of vacation with five years on the job.
  • Card-based certification in three sectors: temporary help agencies, building services and home care and community services.
  • New rights around joining a union: greater access to lists, off-site and electronic voting, stronger certification powers.
  • Successor rights for building services contracts (cleaning, food services, security) and the ability to extend rules to agencies and institutions receiving public funds.

For a more comprehensive summary, please see the presentation developed by Unifor’s Research Department or check out the Unifor campaign page.

Many of these changes will come into effect in January – marking hard-fought new rights for the New Year a reality. 

It will be our job as a union and as trade union activists to ensure these rights are enforce for all workers and that we continue to push for further improvements. We will not go backwards! Let’s remember that the Ontario election is coming this June.