Over the last three years, the government has been busy amending Ontario employment legislation. The latest round of changes to the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA) and the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) are contained in Bill 79, Working for Workers Act, 2023. Additional OHSA amendments from a past Ontario Bill are still to come into force.
So, what do employers with Ontario employees need to know? Our post reviews 5 key changes that you should watch for in the coming months.
#1 Ensuring remote workers are eligible for notice in group terminations
Currently, Ontario employers must provide notice of a group termination when they terminate 50 or more employees within a 4 week period at the employer’s “establishment”.
Bill 79 will amend the definition of establishment in the ESA to clarify that when determining whether 50+ employees have been terminated, employers will have to include an employee’s private residence if:
- the employee performs work in their residence; and
- does not perform work at any other location where the employer carries on business.
Typically, employers must post notice of termination of 50+ employees in the establishment. With Bill 79, employers will also have to provide notice to each affected employee.
Assuming that Bill 79 is passed before the end of this legislative session, this amendment is set to come into force on July 1, 2023.
#2 Expanding eligibility for reservist leave
Currently, the ESA entitles employees to reservist leave after three months of consecutive employment if they are:
- performing Canadian Forces operations outside Canada or inside Canada in relation to an emergency; or
- participating in Canadian Armed Forces military skills training.
Bill 79 will expand who is eligible for reservist leave by making two changes:
- reducing the eligibility period from three to two months of consecutive employment;
- providing leave for reservists to recover from physical or mental health illness, injury or medical emergency related to participation in a military operation or training.
These changes will come into force as soon as the Bill is passed.
#3 Requiring more employee information
Under the ESA, employers must provide the latest version of the employment standards poster to new employees within 30 days of their start date. The Ontario government announced that it will be adding a new requirement to provide written information about their job (i.e., pay, work location and hours of work) to new hires before their first shift.
Bill 79 gives the government the power to publish regulations setting out these new employee information requirements. Ontario employers should expect to see these new regulations in the next few months.
#4 Mandating naloxone kits in Ontario workplaces
Earlier amendments to Ontario employment legislation (in Bill 88) included changes to OHSA, mandating naloxone kits in Ontario workplaces. Effective June 1, 2023, Ontario employers that become aware or should reasonably be aware of a potential opioid overdose must provide and maintain naloxone kits in the workplace. In addition to making the kits available, employers must ensure that the worker near the kit is in charge of it and has received training, and information regarding the trained employee is posted in the workplace.
For further details on requirements related to naloxone kits, see our earlier post.
#5 Increasing potential fines for non-compliance
And, of course, new compliance requirements would not be complete without increasing potential employer fines for non-compliance. Maximum fines for corporations convicted of an offence under OHSA will increase – per Bill 79 – from $1.5 million to $2 million.
Wrap Up – Amendments to Ontario Employment Legislation
With the government continuing to focus on Ontario employment legislation – Bill 79 represents the third round of amendments to the ESA and OHSA – employers will be well advised to not only keep an eye out for the above changes, but also additional amendments to be announced. For additional information on previous amendments to Ontario employment legislation, see our earlier posts on Bill 13, Bill 27 and Bill 88.
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