The dog days of summer are coming to an end but the government keeps making changes to Ontario’s employment laws.
The unrelenting increased regulation of Ontario’s workplaces
This summer, the Ontario government has been holding hearings on its proposed changes to the Employment Standards Act (ESA) which are contained in Bill 48. I suspect many of the proposed changes will be passed into law by Dec. 31, 2017.
Changes may include a requirement to pay employees three weeks vacation after five years service, paying two personal emergency leave days a year, and paying a minimum wage of $15 per hour by 2019. In addition, employers may be required to pay part-time employees the same rate of pay as full-time employees doing the same job, subject to some exceptions.
These changes are in addition to other amendments to the ESA in recent years, changes to the Occupational Health & Safety Act (OHSA), and several new regulations under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA).
Many employers are increasingly becoming willfully blind to these changes; they simply don’t have the internal resources to keep up with the many changes. In the past, the Ministry of Labour didn’t devote many resources to proactively enforcing Ontario’s labour laws but this is changing. Earlier this year, for example, the Ontario government announced it is hiring an additional 175 enforcement officers.
Perhaps the fastest growing area of employment law: accommodating employees with disabilities
It has been illegal to discriminate against disabled employees for many years but only recently have these cases reached the courts and administrative tribunals in large numbers.
The Ontario Human Rights Commission has published a number of lengthy policies on this topic.
Initiatives like Bell’s “Let’s Talk” have shined a light on the topic and have helped to eliminate the stigmas that were historically associated with mental disabilities. This, in turn, has resulted in employees disclosing disabilities, seeking accommodation and commencing litigation if accommodation requests are not granted.
Accommodating employees with mental disabilities is an extremely complicated process. It is complex legally and it is complex from a practical perspective. Many employers don’t understand their rights and obligations when it comes to accommodating a mental disability.
For example, what is a disability? Can or must an employer ask an employee whether they have a disability in some circumstances? How much medical information is the employee required to disclose? Is the employer required to accept the employee’s proposed form of accommodation without question? Is an employer required to assign an employee to another position if the employee is temporarily unable to perform their job because of a mental disability?
How the MacLeod Law Firm is helping Ontario’s employers keep up to date on Ontario’s employment laws
On October 16 and October 20 we are holding seminars in Toronto and Barrie that will cover three topics; namely,
- How to make sure you are ready for a visit from a Ministry of Labour enforcement officer;
- How to accommodate an employee with a disability; and
- Whether certain clauses in your employment contract need to be updated because of recent cases in the law. Information on the seminar can be found here.
Unless your organization is on top of these issues, I sincerely believe that someone from your organization would benefit from attending this seminar or another seminar like it. I think we have reached a point in Ontario where an employer must devote some resources each year to making sure it is aware of its ever growing employment law obligations.