Tougher Penalties for ESA Non-Compliance under Ontario Bill 148, Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, 2017

The proposed Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, 2017 (Bill 148) represents the first major overhaul of Ontario’s employment and labours in over two decades.  While many of the Bill 148 amendments are aimed at enhancing the substantive rights of workers, others are meant to permit tougher punishment for employer contraventions of worker rights.

That includes proposed amendments to enforcement provisions of the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA), which will allow for more discretion by employment standards officers in choosing a monetary penalty. It is expected that this additional discretion will be complemented by amendments to the ESA enforcement regulation to increase the maximum penalties for non-compliant employers from $250/$500/$1,000 to $350/$700/$1,500.

In addition to the increased financial sanctions, the Director will be given new powers to publish information related to a deemed contravention of the Act. This is expected to include the names of individuals who have been issued a penalty, a description and the date of the contravention, and the amount of the penalty.

With the corresponding danger of both financial and reputational damage associated with the increased penalties and powers expected under the ESA, employers should consider whether or not they are acting in compliance with the ESA and also reassess their risks related to potential non-compliance.

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.

 

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