Summary

Ontario’s economy, like others around the world, has changed. Work is different and, for many people, increasingly less secure. Many workers struggle to support their families on part-time, contract or minimum-wage work, and many more don’t have access to time off due to illness.

To address this changing workplace environment, the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, 2017 was passed on November 22, 2017.

This legislation makes a number of changes to both the Employment Standards Act, 2000, the Labour Relations Act, 1995, and the Occupational Health and Safety Act, including raising the minimum wage and providing employees with:

Minimum wage

The general minimum wage increased to $14 per hour on January 1, 2018, and will increase to $15 on January 1, 2019.

Learn more about our changes to the minimum wage.

Equal pay for equal work

What’s changed as of April 1, 2018

With a few exceptions employers cannot pay:

  1. one employee less than another employee, because their employment status is different, if both people perform equal work. A difference in employment status could include the:
    • number of hours regularly worked by the employees
    • term of employment, such as permanent, temporary, seasonal or casual
  2. their assignment employees less than what is paid to employees employed directly by the client business, if both perform equal work.

Equal work means the employees perform:

  • substantially the same kind of work in the same establishment
  • their work requires substantially the same skill, effort and responsibility
  • the work is performed under similar working conditions

Employees who believe their employer is not following the new provisions may ask their employer to review their rate of pay. The employer must respond by either:

  1. adjusting the employee’s pay
  2. giving the employee a written response that sets out the reasons why they disagree with the employee’s belief that the rules have been broken

Exceptions

This rule does not apply to employers if the difference in the rate of pay is made on the basis of:

  • a seniority or merit system
  • systems that measure earnings by quantity or quality of production
  • other factors (sex and employment status will not qualify as an exception)

Comes into effect

This came into effect on April 1, 2018.

Temporary help agencies

What’s changed

Temporary help agencies are now required to give their employees at least one week’s written notice or pay in lieu of notice, if an assignment, originally estimated to last three months or longer, ends early.

If the temporary help agency gives less than one week’s notice, they must pay the wages the employee would have been entitled to receive had one week’s notice been given.

The temporary help agency does not have to give notice or pay in lieu if it offered the employee another assignment that was reasonable and lasted at least one week.

Learn more about temporary help agency rules under the Employment Standards Act, 2000.

Exceptions

Agencies do not have to provide notice or pay in lieu of notice if there is:

  • wilful misconduct by the assignment employee
  • an unforeseeable event that makes it impossible to perform the assignment
  • or the assignment is terminated because of a strike or lock-out at the location of the assignment

Comes into effect

This came into effect on January 1, 2018.

Scheduling

What’s changing

The legislation will allow employees to:

  • request a schedule or location change once they’ve been employed for three months, without fear of being penalized
  • refuse shifts if their employer asks them to work with less than 96 hours’ notice, without fear of retaliation, with certain exceptions

Employers will also be required to pay wages to the employees for three hours of work if the employee:

  • regularly works more than three hours a day, shows up for work and works less than three hours or not at all (for example, the shift is cut short)
  • the shift is cancelled within 48 hours of their scheduled start time, with certain exceptions
  • is scheduled to be on-call but, despite being available to work, is either not called in to work or works less than three hours. This will be required for each 24-hour period the employee is on call

Exceptions

Cancellations

Employers will not be required to pay for a cancelled shift if they were unable to provide work because of:

  • fire, lightning, power failure, storms or similar causes beyond their control or
  • the employee’s work is weather-dependent and the employer is unable to provide work for weather-related reasons

Three hour rule

Employers will not be required to pay wages for three hours for a shift that lasts fewer than three hours if they were unable to provide work because of fire, lightning, power failure, storms or similar causes beyond their control.

Refusing a shift with less than 96 hours’ notice

Employees cannot refuse a shift if the reason that the employer is asking them to work or be on call is to:

  • deal with an emergency
  • remedy or reduce a threat to public safety
  • ensure the continued delivery of essential public services, regardless of who delivers those services

On-call pay rules

Employers will not be required to pay wages for three hours for an on-call shift if the employee is on call to ensure the continued delivery of essential public services, regardless of who delivers those services and the employee was not required to work.

Comes into effect

These scheduling changes will come into effect on January 1, 2019.

Vacation time

What’s changed

Under the legislation, employees are now entitled to three weeks of paid vacation after five years with the same employer.

Learn more about vacation time and pay under the Employment Standards Act, 2000.

Comes into effect

This came into effect on January 1, 2018.

Personal emergency leave

What’s changed

Previously, some employees had the right to take up to 10 days of unpaid, job-protected leave, each calendar year due to illness, injury and other emergencies/ urgent matters. But these rules only applied to workplaces with 50 or more employees.

The legislation now requires all employers to give all employees 10 personal emergency leave days per year, including two paid days if the employee has been employed for one week or longer (7 days).

Learn more about personal emergency leave under the Employment Standards Act, 2000.

Comes into effect

This came into effect on January 1, 2018.

Domestic or sexual violence leave

What’s changed

An employee who has been employed for at least 13 consecutive weeks is now entitled to up to 10 individual days of leave and up to 15 weeks of leave if the employee or their child experiences domestic or sexual violence or the threat of domestic or sexual violence. The first five days of leave, each calendar year, will be paid, the rest will be unpaid.

Learn more about domestic or sexual violence leave under the Employment Standards Act, 2000.

Comes into effect

This came into effect on January 1, 2018.

Employee misclassification

What’s changed

Employers cannot misclassify employees as independent contractors. This addresses cases where employers treat employees as if they are self-employed and not entitled to employment standards protections. If there is a dispute the employer will have to prove that an individual is not an employee.

Comes into effect

This came into effect on November 27, 2017.

Footwear with an elevated heel

What’s changed

Under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, employers cannot require workers to wear footwear with an elevated heel (for instance, high heels) unless they are needed for the worker’s safety.

Exceptions

This does not apply to employers of workers in the entertainment and advertising industries.

Comes into effect

This came into effect on November 27, 2017.

How we enforce the Employment Standards Act

What’s changing

We are stepping up enforcement to make sure these new rules are followed, including:

  • focusing on employers who compete unfairly by breaking the law
  • protecting the majority of employers that follow the rules from experiencing unfair competition from employers that do not
  • launching a program to educate both employees and small and medium-sized businesses about their rights and obligations under the Employment Standards Act, 2000
  • hiring up to 175 more employment standards officers

Once the new employment standards officers are hired, the Employment Standards program will:

  • resolve all claims within 90 days
  • inspect one in 10 Ontario workplaces every year
  • assist new employers, specifically medium and small business, to comply with the Employment Standards Act, 2000

Other changes

Learn more about some of the other changes to the Employment Standards Act, 2000 and the Labour Relations Act, 1995, including:

  • overtime pay
  • liability for related employers
  • public holiday pay
  • leave for the death of a child and for crime-related disappearance
  • family medical leave
  • physician notes for absences
  • orders to pay employees directly
  • employee contact
  • collections
  • electronic agreements
  • exclusions
  • union certification
  • successor rights
  • structure of bargaining units
  • return-to-work rights and procedures
  • just cause protection
  • fines
Updated: July 05, 2021
Published: November 20, 2017