Changes to the Ontario employment law have been passed and for small business owners, this is bad news. The Canadian Centre for Economic Analysis was commissioned by the Keep Ontario Working coalition to measure the potential impacts of six key areas of change in Bill 148, including changes to minimum wages, equal pay provisions, vacation, scheduling, personal emergency leave, and unionization.
The economic impact analysis data found:
• $23 billion hit on businesses over the next two years alone.
• Some 185,000 Ontario jobs at immediate risk over the next two years
• Of those workers at risk, 30,000 are youth under 25 years and 96,000 are likely to be women
• 50 per cent increase to inflation for this year and the foreseeable future.
• cost of everyday consumer goods and services to go up by an average of $1,300 per household every year
As business owners, we dislike these changes as a whole. Unfortunately, it has become a reality. So, until there is a provincial change in government, it is unlikely these newly imposed laws will be amended anytime soon.
Sabatina Vassalli, an employment lawyer at Agro & Zaffiro, explains these changes in terms we could understand. Some of these new changes are reasonable, while others (i.e. multiple wage increases) are seemingly an attempt at getting re-elected.
Here are some of the changes this legislation brings.
Independent contractor status – Employers will be prohibited from treating an employee as if he or she was not an employee.
Request for changes to schedule or location – Employees will be able to request changes to their schedule or work location. Employers will have an obligation to discuss the changes and either approve them or deny them.
Scheduling – Employers will be required to pay a minimum of three hours for shifts that are under three hours, and to pay for three hours if the employer cancels the employee’s shift within 48 hours. This also applies to temporary agencies.
Equal pay for equal work – The new law will prohibit employers from having different rates of pay for employees based on their employment status, but will allow you to pay employees who do the same job different pay rates based on seniority.
Enhanced pregnancy and parental leave – New mothers can start parental leave 12 weeks before and employees who experience still-birth or miscarriage will be entitled to 12 weeks leave. Parental leave is now 78 weeks after the child is born (increased from 52).
Personal emergency leave – All employees will now be entitled to 10 days of personal emergency leave. If the employee has been employed for more than a week, then two of the 10 leave days must be paid. Employers will have a right to request evidence of the personal emergency days, but will not have the right to request a doctor’s note.
Domestic violence or sexual violence leave – Employees who are employed for at least 13 consecutive weeks may take a leave of 10 days up to 15 weeks without pay, if the employee or their child experiences domestic or sexual violence, or even a threat of the sort. The leave must be taken for specific listed reasons.
Family leaves – Family medical leave will be increased from eight to 27 weeks. Additionally, upon the death of a child, an employee will be entitled to 104 weeks of unpaid leave.
Public holiday pay – Employees would be entitled to their average regular daily wage. An employer is required to give notice to employees if they are required to work on a public holiday and will be required to state the day off that will be substituted in its place.
Vacation – Employees with five or more years of service will be entitled to a minimum of three weeks of vacation per year. Also vacation pay increases from four per cent to six per cent.
Minimum wage – The hourly minimum wage will be raised to $14 on January 1, 2018, and to $15 on January 1, 2019, and will be subject to an annual inflation adjustment on October 1st of every year beginning in 2019. Inflation is about two per cent, which means someone earning $15 will earn $15.30 after year one, and the wage will compound making the wage over $17 in five years. To put this into perspective, the last time my office raised its fees was three years ago and the increase was two per cent. Patients, in general, may balk at yearly fee increases of two per cent, so as DCs we really need to know our patient base before we decide to make annual hikes.
What can you do?
Raise your treatment fees
These changes may leave us no choice but to increase our fees in 2018. This new legislation will cost us and every other business owner more money. We must modestly increase our fees to maintain our after-expense revenues. Just because the government raises your expenses does not mean you should take a haircut on your profits.
Reduce employee hours
Find what you can do, what you can delegate to co-op students, and identify slow times during the week when employee hours may not be necessary. A reduction of just three hours per week will save you more than $2,200 per year.
Get an employment lawyer
The time will come when the cost of keeping someone will exceed the value of what they do for your business. In these cases it may be more cost efficient to terminate their employment. This is when you need professional help to make sure you give enough severance to avoid being sued.
Write your MPP
This may seem like an “old school” approach, but over the course of time it is a dependable way to get the direct attention of your elected representatives. As health professionals if we say nothing or do nothing about changes that affect our profession, then amendments will never be made.
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