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Workplaces are forever changing. That’s why Ontario is currently undergoing the Changing Workplaces Review, with the aim of amending, if necessary, the Employment Standards Act, 2000 and the Labour Relations Act, 1995 to account for these changing times. According to the “Terms of Reference” posted on the Ministry of Labour’s website, “[t]he objective of this review is to improve security and opportunity for those made vulnerable by the structural economic pressures and changes being experienced by Ontarians in 2015.”

This review fulfills a commitment made in the Speech from the Throne following the June 2014 provincial election, in which the government announced:

A changing economy means a changing workplace. Your government will engage with Ontarians to consider what it can do in the context of our labour and employment law regime to continue to protect workers while supporting business in today’s modern economy.

Special Advisors C. Michael Mitchell and The Honourable John C. Murray were called upon in the spring of 2015 to lead the first round of consultations with respect to this review, and were encouraged to consider other innovative forms of engagement.

The Ontario government considers this review imperative, primarily given the increase in precarious employment around the province, including temporary, casual, short-term, fixed-term and self-employment. These types of employment account for approximately half of all employment relationships in Ontario.

Other specific trends being examined include:

  • The rising prominence of the service sector;
  • Globalization and trade liberalization;
  • Accelerating technological change; and
  • Greater workplace diversity.

There are limitations on the review, however. That is, the following issues are not being considered:

  • The construction industry provisions of the Labour Relations Act, 1995;
  • The minimum wage (which has just recently been increased to $11.25 per hour); or
  • Policy discussions for which other independent processes have been initiated.

Furthermore, the Advisors have also specifically mentioned that they will not be touching upon the exemptions to the Employment Standards Act, 2000 in their report, given the large number of exemptions that exist in that statute.

Many people have been involved in the review process, including various stakeholders and academics, some of whom have provided inter-jurisdictional research on the changing workplace. At least 12 public consultation sessions have been held across the province, and the Special Advisors have spoken at roughly eight conferences and meetings with employers, unions and worker advocates, heard over 200 presentations, and received over 300 written submissions from employers, unions, employee advocacy groups and other interested parties across the province. Others from the community have also provided their comments.

The Special Advisors plan to release an interim report very soon, with a final report expected to be released in late fall 2016. Following the Changing Workplaces Review, the Ministry of Labour will consider what changes may be needed to ensure that Ontario’s labour relations and employment standards regime continues to protect workers and support business.

This content is not intended to provide legal advice or opinion as neither can be given without reference to specific events and situations. © 2021 Nelligan O’Brien Payne LLP.

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