On October 23, the Government of Ontario announced Bill 47, Making Ontario Open for Business Act, 2018 which includes a near-full repeal of Bill 148, the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, 2017, and improvements to Ontario’s apprenticeship system.
Bill 47, Making Ontario Open for Business Act, 2018. received royal assent on November 21, 2018.
Modernizing Ontario’s apprenticeship system will make strides towards closing the skills gap, provide more opportunities to young people, and help drive economic growth.
Below is a description of the Bill’s provisions with analysis provided by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC).
Minimum wage paused at $14 per hour
The dramatic increase in minimum wage mandated under Bill 148 was unprecedented in North America for both its amount and the speed by which it was to be implemented. According to a study by Ontario’s Financial Accountability Office, the scheduled increase would put approximately 50,000 people at risk of losing their jobs. The OCC supports pausing the minimum wage at $14/hour and tying future increases to a calculation based on the rate of inflation, to ensure consistency, reliability, and predictability for both employers and employees.
Partial repeal of scheduling provisions
Bill 148 allowed employees to refuse a shift scheduled less than 96 hours before its start and required employers to pay staff for a minimum of three hours of work in the case of a cancelled/reduced shift. These provisions made it difficult and more expensive for businesses to properly staff operations, especially for industries that rely more heavily on casual work or are exposed to factors outside their control, such as the weather events or fluctuations in consumer demand. The government will be repealing the 96-hour rule, while maintaining the 3-hour rule. This will reduce some of the uncertainty and cost pressures on employers. While we welcome this decision, the OCC urges the government to also repeal the 3-hour rule, which is particularly harmful for businesses in the agriculture, tourism, and restaurant industries that frequently face circumstances beyond their control and require the flexibility to schedule, cancel or reduce shift hours with short notice.
Removal of equal pay for equal work
Requiring employers to provide equal pay to part-time and full-time employees, as well as temporary help agency employees, who perform substantially the same job added significant administrative and salary costs to businesses. Implementation was particularly challenging and costly for small businesses, with fewer resources and broader job descriptions. Removing the equal pay provision will increase flexibility for Ontario employers.
Returning to previous calculation of public holiday pay
Bill 148 changed the formula for calculating public holiday pay, requiring employers to divide regular wages earned in the pay period before the public holiday by the number of days worked in that pay period. In practice, this made it more expensive for employers to hire causal, part-time workers and created a system that did not provide fair compensation to full-time staff. Returning to the previous public holiday pay formula will ensure fair compensation for all workers and allow businesses to make economically sound hiring decisions.
Return to previous union certification policies
Bill 148 extended card-based union certification to the temporary help agency industry, the building services sector, and home care and community services industry, removing the need for a secret ballot vote. The government’s decision to return to secret ballot voting is in the best interest of employees, as it safeguards them from external pressures and protects their democratic rights. In addition, Bill 148 forced employers to provide unions with access to employee lists and employee contact information where the union is able to demonstrate 20 percent employee support. Returning to the previous requirement to demonstrate at least 40 percent employee support will protect the privacy rights of employees.
Amended personal emergency leave
Under Bill 148, small businesses were required to provide a minimum of 10 personal emergency leave days per year (eight unpaid and two paid). This will be amended to require a total of eight unpaid days within the following categories: three sick days, two bereavement days, and three family emergency leave days. To help promote accountability, employers may now once again ask employees for a sick note. These changes will help small businesses manage schedules and reduce unexpected costs, helping them remain competitive.
Maintain domestic or sexual violence leave
Bill 148 introduced a domestic or sexual violence leave provision. The OCC supports this policy, which gives employees the right to up to 10 days of individual leave and up to 15 weeks of leave if the employee or their child experiences domestic or sexual violence or the threat of such violence.
Maintain paid vacation expansion
The government will not be removing provisions that entitle employees to three weeks of paid vacation after five years with the same employer. The OCC accepts this provision, as many employers did not plan to reduce their employees’ vacation time regardless of legislative change.
Apprenticeship ratios set at 1:1
Ontario’s current journeyperson-to-apprenticeship ratios make it difficult for employers to fulfill high levels of demand for skilled tradespeople, as they struggle to recruit sufficient journeypersons to hire additional apprentices. This has resulted in young tradespeople struggling to work the hours necessary to complete their training, limiting the number of certified tradespeople produced each year. The government’s announcement to lower these ratios to 1:1 across all trades will make it easier for apprentices to become certified and for businesses to fill skills shortages and complete projects. This will be especially important for smaller urban and rural communities, where the pool of journeypersons is typically much smaller.
Dissolution of the Ontario College of Trades (OCOT)
Since its establishment in 2009, the OCOT has become overly focused on enforcement and regulation, limiting its ability to serve the public interest by attracting and training new tradespeople. The government has announced that it will be dissolving the OCOT and uploading its responsibilities to the Ministry of Labour, something that the OCC advocated for in our Blueprint Letters to Cabinet Ministers. Dissolving the College is an important first step in modernizing Ontario’s apprenticeship system and developing a stronger, more competitive workforce. The OCC is also in support of the government’s decision to place a moratorium on trades classification and re-classification, which will reduce hiring-related burdens and improve business competitiveness.