The scheduling of work is one of many areas that would see significant revamping under Ontario’s proposed Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act (Bill 148). Bill 148 was recently released in response to the highly anticipated Changing Workplaces Review Final Report, which recommended sweeping changes to Ontario’s Employment Standards Act (ESA) and Labour Relations Act.

Bill 148 does not adopt all of the Final Report’s recommendations around scheduling (such as sector-specific regulations). However, it would nonetheless expand employees’ rights in the area, subject only to overriding provisions in an employer’s collective agreement.

Currently, the ESA does not regulate an employers’ scheduling of work, aside from providing that an employee who attends a scheduled shift must be paid for at least three hours’ work, even if the shift is shorter. Bill 148 not only includes this existing “three hour rule”, but would also require employers to pay employees for three hours of work when a shift is cancelled within eight hours of its scheduled start time. In addition, “on-call” employees who were scheduled but not called to work would be entitled to three hours’ pay for each 24 hour period that they are on call.

Bill 148 also gives employees the right to refuse shifts that are scheduled on fewer than four days’ notice. Further, most employees would be entitled to request a schedule or location change. Where the employer need not necessarily accept this request, it would nonetheless be required (a) discuss the request the employee and (b) notify the employee of its decision in a reasonable time. The employer would also be expected to detail why an employee’s request was denied.

If passed, Bill 148 would require employers to handle scheduling with a considerable degree of foresight to ensure that employees received ample notice of schedules, and to minimize the potentially costly application of the various three hour rules. Employers would also likely need to consider contingency plans for instances where an employee is in the position to refuse short-notice shifts. In addition, employers may wish to establish standardized processes for how employees’ requests for scheduling and local changes would be processed, determined and communicated.

Bill 148 passed First Reading on June 1, 2017 and, in an expedited process, was referred to the Special Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs the same day. The Special Committee has since posted a Notice of Public Hearings on Bill 148 to be held:

  • the week of July 10, 2017 in Thunder Bay, North Bay, Ottawa, Kingston, and Windsor-Essex. Those planning to make an oral presentation in any of these locations must provide their name and contact information to Committee Clerk by 10:00am on July 4, 2017.
  • the week of July 17, 2017 in London, Kitchener-Waterloo, Niagara, Hamilton, and Toronto. Those planning to make an oral presentation in any of these locations must provide their name and contact information to Committee Clerk by 10:00am on July 10, 2017.

Alternatively, written submissions may be sent to the Special Committee by 5:30 pm on July 21, 2017.

This gives employers and other stakeholders a final chance to have their voices heard on the Bill 148 amendments.

If you have questions or concerns about these or any of the Bill 148 amendments to the Ontario labour and employment laws do not hesitate to contact the Norton Rose Fulbright Canada Labour and Employment Team.

Written with Kaley Dodds.