On Thursday, June 2, 2022 Ontarios will cast their votes for a new provincial government. Throughout the campaign period the three major political parties have announced their varying approaches to key issues in labor and employment law and this blog post is to advise you of some of the campaign promises that could impact your workplace.
The current provincial government led by the Progressive Conservatives have promised to reintroduce their April 2022 Budget if re-elected. One of the immediate measures contained in that Budget, includes an increase to the minimum wage to $15.50 effective October 1, 2022, with additional increases tied to the consumer price index (CPI) thereafter.
In addition, prior to the April 2022 Budget the Progressive Conservatives created the “Ontario Workforce Recovery Advisory Committee” (OWRAC) with a mandate to make recommendations to help Ontario’s workforce recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
In November 2021, OWRAC released it The Future of Work in Ontario Report which made twenty-one recommendations to the provincial government. Some of these recommendations have already been implemented by the government via the Working for Workers Act, 2021 and Working for Workers Act, 2022including, for example, the ban on non-competes (which we blogged about here) and the introduction of new policies requirements related to disconnection and electronic monitoring (which we also blogged about here and here).
If re-elected, OWRAC’s recommendations likely provides clues as to what additional measures the Progressive Conservatives might seek to implement, including:
- Appointing an expert to design and test a portable benefits program, where contributors could be employers, workers and the government.
- Create or clarify terms under which independent contractors are defined, for highly skilled workers, who opt for this flexibility.
- Create and recognize the dependent contractor category for gig or platform workers in the app-based space and give this category of worker basic employment rights, such as termination pay, minimum wage, minimum or core benefits, regular payment of wages, pay stubs for pay accountability and notice of termination with severance entitlements.
- Require contracting companies to be transparent by stipulating that they comply with employment standards, specifically with respect to worker classification. Clear and unambiguous acknowledgment that liability compliance rests with both the contracting and the subcontracted company is needed.
- Simplify the exemptions section of the Employment Standards Act, 2000 to make it easier to understand and enforce and more relevant to current and future workers.
The Official Opposition in the last provincial parliament the Ontario NDP are making a number of proposals to address “Better Work” in the province, including:
- Raising the minimum wage to $20 in 2026, with $1-an-hour increases annually;
- Legislating 10 permanent paid personal emergency leave days for workers to stay home if they are sick or caring for a sick child;
- Creating “Ontario Benefits” to cover all workers including those in part-time, casual, app-based or contract jobs. This would include a basket of benefits, including dental care and vision coverage.
- Eliminating “without cause” terminations so that workers can only be fired “with cause”;
- Allowing unionization when 55% of workers sign a card stating they want to join a union;
- Implementing a four-day work week pilot project in Ontario, to be established for one year for a section of the province’s workers;
- Increasing the number of jobs covered under the Employment Standards Act, 2000 and the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, 1997†
Relegated to third place in the last provincial election, the Ontario Liberals are making a number of promises to create “A Place to Grow Economy Dignity”, including:
- Raising the minimum wage to $16 an hour and then develop a “living wage” that factors in the local cost of living in different regions of the province;
- Creating a package of benefits that everyone can use, including self-employment, gig, contract and creative workers. Employers without comparable benefits would be required to enroll their staff while offering employees the option to opt-out;
- Providing 10 paid, job-protected sick days and re-introducing a ban on employers making their employees produce a sick note;
- providing employers with up to $200 a day to compensate for the costs of workers taking more sick days than the 10 paid, job-protected sick days;
- Piloting a four day work week.