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Ontario’s New Labour Laws – An Essential How-To List for Your HR Department

23/10/2017


​Bill 148, revising labour laws in Ontario, is moving close to becoming reality and human resources (HR) leaders need to start getting ready.

As mentioned in my last post, draft legislation for Bill 148 was tabled in the provincial legislature in May.

Following public consultation through the summer, an updated version was released at the end of August. While there were some updates, the proposed significant changes were essentially left untouched. That means the minimum wage increase and changes to scheduling, leaves of absence, and more will be introduced with this legislation.

Businesses and media across the province are paying a lot of attention to Bill 148 with daily articles covering either the pros or the cons. That is understandable as the changes will have an impact on all types of business, large and small, and it is why HR leaders need to as well.

Most businesses seem focused on plans to adjust to the minimum wage increase, but they need to start preparing for all the changes and the head of HR has a leading role to play.

Critical Initial Steps

HR leaders should be planning for the following:

  • Review and update HR policies and documentation to reflect new requirements. For example, ensure employee handbooks or agreements have been modified to incorporate new leave policies or entitlements.
  • Adjust administrative routines to accommodate process changes caused by the new legislation. Such as, developing a plan for how requests for wage reviews, scheduling changes or relocation request will be managed. In unionized environments, you will need to start working with your union to figure out how changes will be communicated and implemented.
  • Update offer templates and provisions to align with Bill 148. This includes strengthening provisions to mitigate against allegations a dependent contractor relationship exists.
  • Refresh onboarding check-lists to ensure all information required to comply with new record-keeping requirements is captured and compliance with equal work for equal pay requirements are adhered to. This will be especially important when using staff from temporary help services agencies.
  • Update employee record-keeping software to ensure new information requirements are captured electronically.
  • If you are in a unionized environment, work with your unions to make the changes and be aware of the updates to the Labour Relations Act that are part of the Bill 148

And that is just the administrative side of things. The biggest change, as you are aware, is in wages.

Prepare for Wage Rage

Review your compensation structures to adapt to the minimum wage increase and to ensure compliance. Use the implementation of Bill 148 as an opportunity to update existing salary structures or grids, ensure alignment with new minimums and with roles, responsibilities and level of seniority.

Overall, look at the compensation structure for employees at minimum wage and just above to make a deliberate decision on how you want to set your wage rates. Employees in the $15-range today might not think it fair if they don’t get an increase to stay above minimum wage.

As well, be aware there could be some confusion around the new equal pay for equal work requirements; employees might not understand why they are or are not seeing changes to the job and pay as your company adjusts to the new legislation.

Plan Schedules Ahead with Employees

If your business has people on variable schedules, you will be left scrambling to adapt if you simply wait for the change to take effect. As noted in my previous blog, the changes include employees having the right to request schedule or location changes and to refuse shifts scheduled with less than 96 hours notice (with some exceptions such as in the event of an emergency or to remedy or reduce a threat to public safety).

As well, there will be a new requirements to pay employees for a minimum of 3 hours (at their regular wage) when scheduled or on-call shifts are cancelled with less than 48 hours notice (with some exceptions due to issues beyond an employer’s control, including fire, power failure, weather). The same requirement applies to on-call workers who are on-call (and available to work) but are not called in.

  • Start ahead of time to determine the scheduling process that best works for you and is ready to comply with the new legislation.
  • Involve your employees in figuring out the new process – they will help you make the right decision and will be less likely to resist the change.

Above all communicate, communicate, communicate.

Communication at All Levels is the Key to Success

The most critical aspect of your HR strategy involves communicating the policy changes clearly and consistently throughout your organization.

  • Start with management: prepare and distribute communications for managers about the legislation.
  • Disseminate information to employees: prepare a communication plan for employees. Develop one-page summaries that can be passed out.
  • Address changes impacting individual employees: prepare letters and documentation to highlight important changes to their employment terms and conditions.

Know Where Your Organizations Stands

To ensure you are compliant ahead of the mandated changes, connect with a trusted advisor to complete an in-depth risk assessment of how the new rules will impact your business. You will then be able to identify the actions you should take, specific to your organization and be prepared for and adjust to the changes.

For more information, contact Alan Lambert, Partner, Advisory Services, at 416.596.1711 or alan.lambert@mnp.ca.