Today the Government of Ontario released the much anticipated Changing Workplaces Review Final Report. As special advisors C. Michael Mitchell and the Honourable John C. Murray note in their report, this is the first independent review in Canada to consider specific legislative changes to both employment standards and labour relations in a single process. Their sweeping recommendations for changing both the Ontario Employment Standards Act, 2000 (“ESA”) and the Labour Relations Act, 1995 (“LRA”), if adopted, would usher in a new array of workplace rights in the province.
The 420-page Final Report includes over 170 recommendations on a wide range of issues, including specific recommendations to the following:
- expand the ESA definition of “employee” to include dependent contractors;
- change the ESA managerial exemption to a “salaries plus duties” test;
- increase paid vacation to three weeks after five years of employment;
- disclose employee lists and contact information to unions when they have support of approximately 20% of the employee in the bargaining unit;
- add provisions to the LRA to address the consolidation and amendment of bargaining units;
- revise the LRA to incorporate a model of broader-based bargaining for franchisees;
- deem temporary help agency employees performing work for clients of the agency to be employees of the client for the purposes of the LRA; and
- expand LRA successor rights to apply to building services industries (security, food services and cleaning)
While the foregoing, and more, will be the source of real consternation for many employers, it is noteworthy that the special advisors have also recommended repealing the requirement to obtain Ministry consent to work 48 to 60 hours a week, leaving the overtime threshold at 44 hours in a week, and preserving the secret ballot process for certification with some modification.
Significantly, in addition to the specific recommendations, the special advisors have recommended consolidating the ESA, LRA and the Occupational Health and Safety Act under a single Workplace Rights Act, subject to a process of independent review every five to seven years. The consolidated Act would be comprised of three parts entitled: Rights to Basic Terms and Conditions of Employment, Rights to Collective Bargaining, and Rights to a Safe and Healthy Workplace.
Stay tuned — in a short statement releasing the Final Report, Minister of Labour Kevin Flynn stated that the government will be announcing its formal response to the Final Report recommendations within the next week.