Advocacy at Work
On October 23, the Government of Ontario announced Bill 47, Making Ontario Open for Business Act, 2018 which includes changes to Bill 148, the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, 2017, and improvements to Ontario’s apprenticeship system.
These changes will help businesses in Peterborough continue to grow and reduce some of the regulatory burden added with the implementation of Bill 148.
For the Peterborough Chamber of Commerce, the new apprenticeship ratio regime and the winding down of the Ontario College of Trades are welcome.
Over the past number of years we have consistently heard from our members how these two issues around the skilled trades are holding back business, particularly small business in urban/rural areas such as Peterborough.
What's Changing with Bill 148
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.
Pausing the minimum wage at $14/hour and then tying future increases to a calculation based on the rate of inflation. This connection to inflation will start in 2020.
This connection to an economic indicator has been what the Peterborough Chamber has continued to advocate for as it will ensure consistency, reliability, and predictability for both employers and 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.
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 adjusting the 3-hour rule.
This will reduce some of the uncertainty and cost pressures on employers.
Where an employee who regularly works more than three hours a day is required to report to work, but works less than three hours, the employee would be paid for three hours.
There is still some concern that the three hour rule will remain 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
Implementation was particularly challenging and costly for small businesses, with fewer resources and broader job descriptions.
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.
Removing the equal pay provision will increase flexibility for Ontario employers.
Returning to previous calculation of public holiday pay
Returning to the previous public holiday pay formula will ensure fair compensation for all workers and allow businesses to make economically sound hiring decisions.
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.
Maintain domestic or sexual violence leave
Bill 148 introduced a domestic or sexual violence leave provision.
The OCC and Peterborough Chamber 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.
This is good as the Peterborough Chamber was hearing that many employers did not plan to reduce their employees’ vacation time regardless of legislative change.