Over the past month there has been a lot of press and speculation about the status of the changing Workplaces Review and, in particular, when we can expect the final report of the special advisors, former union-side labour lawyer C. Michael Mitchell and former Ontario Superior Court judge and management-side labour lawyer John C. Murray.
The special advisors’ Interim Report, released by the Ontario Ministry of Labour in July 2016, identifies approximately 50 issues affecting Ontario workplaces and over 225 options for reforming the Labour Relations Act, 1995 (LRA) and the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA) to better protect vulnerable workers and those in precarious work situations, while supporting business is our changing economy. Some of the options considered in the Interim Report, if enacted, could cause seismic changes for Ontario employers. For example, the special advisors noted that they heard a lot from stakeholders about scheduling hours of work. To that end, the options in the Interim Report include requiring employers to post work schedules at least two weeks in advance; get workers’ consent before adding hours or shifts after the initial schedule is posted; pay employees more for last-minute changes to their work schedules; and offer existing hours of work to part-time employees before hiring new employees. Other options for change of significant concern to employers include eliminating the managerial exemption and adding a “just cause” provision to the ESA, and overhauling the certification process in the LRA.
Following the release of the Interim Report, the Ministry invited stakeholders to make further submissions by mid-October. However, since that deadline passed the Ministry has been fairly quiet about the status of the Review and when we might expect the release of the special advisors’ final report and recommendations. The Ministry’s Changing Workplaces Review webpage simply states that the special advisors “are now preparing a final report and recommendations”. Speaking at a Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce event earlier this month, Minister of Labour Kevin Flynn said he expects to see the final report this spring.