The Ontario government recently passed Bill 148, the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, 2017, which will result in significant changes to the labor and employment landscape.

The Act increases protections and basic standards for Ontario workers, especially those identified as being at greater risk. Highlights include an increase to Ontario’s minimum wage; expansion of equal pay provisions; changes to statutory leaves; and numerous rules to help union organizing.

Employment Standards Changes

Minimum Wage

This is the highest profile change in the Act, representing an unparalleled increase for Ontario.

Equal Pay for Equal Work (April 1, 2018)

Employers will be required to pay all employees who perform “substantially the same kind of work” in the same workplace the same wage rates, regardless of employment status (part-time, temporary, assignment, etc.). Previously, employers were prohibited from providing unequal pay based upon gender. With these amendments, employers will now have additional obligations to avoid pay inequalities based upon employment status (i.e., they cannot pay a part-time or temporary employee less than they pay a full-time employee for performing “substantially the same kind of work”) even where comparators are of the same gender.

Scheduling (January 1, 2019)

The Act guarantees three hours’ pay to employees whose shifts are cut short or who were on-call but not called in.

The Act also gives employees the right to refuse shifts offered within 96 hours of the beginning of the shift and the right to request schedule/location changes after 3 months with the employer.

Misclassification (In force)

The Act prohibits employers from misclassifying employees as independent contractors and thereby denying these individuals statutory protections.

An employer will have the burden of proof to prove that an individual is not an employee where the individual claims otherwise.

Temporary Help Agencies (January 1, 2018)

Temporary agencies will be required to provide employees one week’s written notice or pay in lieu if an assignment estimated to last three or more months is terminated before the end of its estimated term.

ESA Protected Leaves

The Act will create paid leave obligations, allowing employees two paid days for personal emergencies, as well as five days when experiencing domestic or sexual violence. Employers will be prohibited from requiring medical notes for use of personal emergency leave.

The Act establishes unpaid leave for incidents of child death and has increased allotted leave time for parental leave, pregnancy leave, and leave for crime-related child disappearances. The Act also expands critical illness leave to apply to those caring for adults as well as child dependents.

These changes take effect on January 1, 2018, with the exception of changes to parental and critical illness leaves, which came into force on December 3, 2017.

Additional Changes (January 1, 2018)

Labor Relations Changes

Union Certification (January 1, 2018)

Employee Protections (January 1, 2018)

The Act will provide additional protections to unionized employees engaged in the process of enforcing collective bargaining rights, such as protection from discipline/discharge during bargaining and greater reinstatement rights after legal work stoppages.

The Act will also enhance penalties on employers violating labor relations protections.

Occupational Health and Safety Changes 

Acceptable Footwear (in force now)

An employer is prohibited from requiring workers from wearing footwear with an elevated heel unless it is required for the worker to perform his or her work safely.


Employers should act quickly to prepare for the coming changes, fully examine the Act, and consider the full potential impact upon their businesses.

Potential changes may include:

Written by Matthew E. McCarthy and Michael Comartin of Ogletree Deakins