What Ontario producers need to know about the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act 2017
Legislation became law when it received Royal Assent this week
By Kaitlynn Anderson
On Monday, Bill 148, otherwise known as the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act 2017, received Royal Assent in Ontario’s parliament. Parts of the legislation became effective immediately.
Particular amendments to the Act, such as the minimum wage increase and equal pay requirements, are scheduled to come into effect on future dates.
So, how could this legislation affect rural Ontarians?
On Jan. 1, 2018, the general minimum wage rate will increase to $14 per hour.
This rate will increase again to $15 on Jan. 1, 2019 and will subsequently be “subject to an annual inflation adjustment on Oct. 1 of every year,” the Bill states.
Due to high labour costs in parts of the agricultural industry, such as in horticultural operations, this increase could leave some farmers facing tough decisions, according to an article in the October issue of Better Farming.
“A lot (of producers) will sit at $18,000 to $20,000 (in additional labour costs) per week,” Ken Forth, chair of both the labour section of the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers’ Association and the Labour Issues Co-ordinating Committee, said in the article.
“The profit margin does not equal the increase in wages. You can be assured that there will be no money for investment on those farms.”
Equal pay for equal work
Employees will now also be entitled to “equal pay from an employer regardless of a difference in employment status,” according to the Bill.
So, full-time, part-time and temporary workers are all entitled to the same wage rate.
This amendment also applies to employees who are recruited through temp agencies.
As of Jan. 1, 2019, employers will be required to adopt new scheduling changes, such as granting employees the right to refuse shifts assigned with fewer than 96 hours notice.
Some rural Ontarians were concerned about how this amendment could affect volunteer firefighters and other municipal standby workers, as the legislation included changes to on-call provisions.
The provisions would have required municipalities to pay these workers “for three hours each day they are on call, regardless of whether they are required to perform their duties or not,” according to a Farms.com article last week.
However, the government has addressed these concerns. Emergency workers are exempt from this particular amendment.
For an in-depth description of all Bill amendments, check out this article by Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP.