Skip to Content

Ontario's "Changing Workplaces Review" final report reccomends significant changes to workplace laws

Jurisdiction: - Ontario
Sector: - All

On May 23, 2017, the final report from Ontario's "Changing Workplaces Review" was released. The Final Report proposes amendments to Ontario's Employment Standards Act, 2000 ("ESA") and Labour Relations Act, 1995 ("LRA") and contains 173 recommendations.

The Ontario report was, notably, released one day before Alberta introduced legislation to modernize its workplace legislation. Specifically, the Alberta bill (Bill 17 - The Fair and Family-friendly Workplaces Act) proposes to amend its Employment Standards Code and Labour Relations Code to support family-friendly workplaces and bring Alberta's standards into alignment with the rest of Canada. Stay tuned for a post on Alberta's initiative.

Genesis of Ontario's Changing Workplace Review

The 419-page Final Report is the culmination of a review that the Ontario government committed to in the 2014 Throne Speech and the Ontario Minister of Labour's 2014 Mandate Letter in relation to the review stated:

The Changing Workplaces Review will consider the broader issues affecting the workplace and assess how the current labour and employment law framework addresses these trends and issues with a focus on the LRA and the ESA. In particular, the Special Advisors will seek to determine what changes, if any, should be made to the legislation in light of the changing nature of the workforce, the workplace, and the economy itself, particularly in light of relevant trends and factors operating on our society, including, globalization, trade liberalization, technological change, the growth of the service sector, and changes in the prevalence and characteristics of standard employment relationships.

History of the Review

In February 2015, the Minister of Labour, Kevin Flynn, appointed C. Michael Mitchell and John C. Murray as Special Advisors to lead the review, which the Ontario government touted as the largest review of Ontario's workplace laws conducted within decades.

The Review's first phase of public consultation involved 12 sessions held across Ontario that heard over 200 presentations and received over 300 written submissions.

The Special Advisors then issued An Interim Report in July 2016 that contained approximately 50 issues and over 225 options for further consultation.

Subsequent to the Interim Report, the Special Advisors undertook a second phase of consultation that concluded in October 2016. During this time, they met with several groups and individuals and received over 280 written submissions in response to the Interim Report.

Special Advisors's General Observations and Upfront Recommendations

The Special Advisors started the Final Report with these "general observations and upfront recommendations":

This is the first independent review in Canada to consider specific legislative changes to both employment standards and labour relations in a single process. Considering both acts simultaneously, within the broader context of workplace and economic change, has provided a unique and original perspective to the issues.

We were mandated to consider the need for reform through the lens of the changes that have been occurring in the workplace and in the economy over a lengthy period of time. The recommendations are aimed at creating better workplaces in Ontario where there are decent working conditions and widespread compliance with the law.

These changes would benefit workers directly, and employers and society in general. Employees will benefit from a better workplace and an enhanced ability to assert their basic rights. Employers will benefit from happier and more productive workplaces and from more robust enforcement. Better enforcement will help to ensure that employers that play by the rules do not experience unfair competition from those that   do not. Responsible, law-abiding businesses, that represent a vast majority of employers, are entitled to compete on a level playing field. All parties will benefit from a better knowledge and understanding of basic rights and obligations.

During hearings held across Ontario as part of the Review, we heard that the combination of low income, lack of control over scheduling, lack of benefits such as pensions and health care, personal emergency leave or sick leave, all together or in various combinations, creates a great deal of uncertainty, anxiety, and stress which undermines the quality of life and the physical well-being of a wide swath of workers in our society.

We found that there is no doubt that there are many legitimate social and economic concerns regarding vulnerable employees in precarious employment. The recommended changes seek, among other things, to improve conditions for those who find themselves in these circumstances.

The mandate also directed us to be supportive of business in a changing economy. The Ontario Chamber of Commerce and the Keep Ontario Working Coalition have said: "the goals of economic growth and improved employee rights are not mutually exclusive". There is a need to take a balanced approach to change, and we have endeavored to strike this balance by taking the bona fide interests of all stakeholders into account in developing recommendations.

We recognize the importance of the role that businesses play in creating growth in the economy and how this contributes to the well-being of all Ontarians. With increased competitive pressures, it is necessary to consider the impact of any policy initiative on business costs. This means taking into account businesses' need for flexibility and reduced administrative burdens. It also means encouraging a level playing field by supporting employers in understanding and meeting their obligations."

Summaries / Analyses by Law Firms

Many law firms have already issued summaries / analyses of the report and its recommendations:

  1. Blakes can be found here: Ontario Considers Major Employment and Labour Law Reform: Key Recommendations and How They Will Impact Employers (May 25, 2017, Laura Blumenfeld).
  2. You can find Norton Rose's and McCarthy Tetrault's at the links below.
Norton Rose - Ontario-changing-workplaces-review-final-report-recommends-sweeping-reforms.pdf75.84 KB
McCarthy Tetrault - Changing_Workplaces_Review.pdf219.58 KB