Here’s what you need to know.

On November 27th The Ontario Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act 2017 (Bill 148) received Royal Assent and passed into law. This is hardly likely to be news to anyone, given the amount of press Bill 148 has received and the numerous announcements and backgrounder reports the Ontario government issued last month.

What some employers may have missed, however, is that the following three Bill 148 reforms to the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA) are already in effect.

Employee Misclassification

Effective November 27, 2017, it is a contravention of the ESA to misclassify and treat an employee – whether deliberately or not – as a self-employed “independent contractor” not entitled to the protections of the ESA.  In the event of a misclassification dispute, the onus is on the employer to prove that the individual is not an employee.

As a result of this change, employers will have to be even more conscientious in their due diligence prior to engaging with an independent contractor.  Employers will also have to keep the work relationship with independent contractors separate and distinct from relationships with employees, as has always been the case.

Increases to parental leave

Changes the federal government made with respect to the Employment Insurance regime have resulted in a consequential change to the ESA parental leave entitlement.  Parental leave has increased from 35 weeks to a maximum of 61 weeks for an employee who also took pregnancy leave, and from 37 weeks to a maximum of 63 weeks for employees who did not take pregnancy leave (for example, birth partners and adoptive parents).  The parental leave amendment took effect on December 3, 2017.

Critical Illness Leave  

Also effective December 3, 2017, an employee with at least six consecutive months’ service is entitled to an unpaid leave of absence without pay to provide care or support to a critically ill minor child  or adult family member, if a qualified health practitioner issues a certificate that, (a) states that the minor child/adult family member is critically ill and requires the care or support of one or more family members; and (b) sets out the period during which the minor child/adult family member requires the care or support.

Eligible employees may take up to 37 weeks of leave in a 52-week period to provide care or support to a critically ill minor child, and up to 17 weeks of leave in a 52-week period to provide care or support to a critically ill adult family member.

Keep an eye out for NRFC’s future posts on Bill 148 ESA reforms that will come into effect on January 1, 2018, April 1, 2018 and January 1, 2019.  In the meantime, the Ontario Ministry of Labour’s November 22, 2017 Backgrounder provides a handy summary of key amendments to the ESA.

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