The Ontario government has responded to the Ministry of Labour’s report on workplace standards with a number of proposed changes, including introducing paid personal emergency leave for all employees, increasing minimum vacation entitlements and raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

“The economy has changed. Work has changed. It’s time our laws and protections for workers changed too,” said Premier Kathleen Wynne.

Read: Ontario proposes changes to workplace legislation

The proposed changes would:

  • Expand personal emergency leave to up to 10 days, including a minimum of at least two paid days per year. It currently applies only in workplaces with 50 or more employees;
  • Prohibit employers from requesting a sick note from an employee taking personal emergency leave;
  • Bring Ontario’s vacation time into line with the national average by ensuring at least three weeks of vacation after five years with a company;
  • Increase family medical leave from up to eight weeks in a 26-week period to up to 27 weeks in a 52-week period;
  • Raise the province’s general minimum wage to $14 per hour on January 1, 2018, and then to $15 on January 1, 2019, followed by annual increases at the rate of inflation;
  • Mandate equal pay for part-time, temporary, casual and seasonal employees doing the same job as full-time employees; and equal pay for temporary help agency employees doing the same job as permanent employees at the agencies’ client companies; and
  • Prohibit employers from misclassifying employees as “independent contractors,” which is intended to address cases where employers improperly treat their employees as if they are self-employed and not entitled to the protections of the Employment Standards Act.

Read: Ontario calls on employers for feedback on proposed changes to personal emergency leave

To enforce the proposed changes, the province will hire up to 175 more employment standards officers and launch a program to educate both employees and small- and medium-sized businesses about their rights and obligations under the Employment Standards Act.

Read: Ontario urged to consider minimum standard for health benefits

Many elements of the Ministry of Labour’s report, published last week, are relevant to plan sponsors, but of particular interest is the recommendation that the government explore a minimum standard for insured health benefits for all employees. While the government’s response didn’t elaborate on this particular recommendation, Benefits Canada is highlighting the topic in our weekly online poll.

Do you agree the government should set a minimum standard for health benefits to ensure coverage across all workplaces in the province? Or do you think such a standard takes government intervention too far and would be an undue burden for employers? Have your say in our weekly online poll.

Have your say: Should Ontario set a minimum standard for workplace health benefits?

Last week’s survey followed on from the announcement of Ontario’s planned changes to its pension funding rules, which would require defined benefit plans to be funded on a solvency basis only if their funded status falls below 85 per cent. Some 61 per cent of respondents said other provinces should follow suit, noting it’s the right approach to making pensions more sustainable for employers while protecting members. However, 11 per cent said other provinces shouldn’t follow suit, as it will leave plan members vulnerable to not getting their full pensions. And 29 per cent said Quebec’s model of doing away with funding pensions on a solvency basis altogether is better.

Read: Ontario announces long-awaited DB solvency reforms

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