Welcome to 2015 – How will the Ontario workplace change this year?

Ontario’s workforce is ever-changing as our economy grows and new markets expand. As a result, employment laws need to be reviewed on a regular basis. Government regulations must reflect the needs of Ontario’s workers and protect the province’s labour force. Employers need to be held to a high standard of ethics and compliance in order to maintain stability in the Ontario job market.

Several significant changes, known as Bill 18, were pushed through in 2014 and will start to have a positive impact on the Ontario workplace as the year unfolds. The amendments include changes to several regulatory statutes, including the Employment Standards Act, the Labour Relations Act, and the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

As of October of 2015, minimum wage increases will be directly tied to the Consumer Price Index (CPI). This will help to determine a fair wage based on the cost of living in Ontario. The CPI is a calculation that measures changes in the cost of goods and services purchased by Canadian households. Each year, the CPI will be released, and the modified minimum wage will be announced in April. The new wage will take effect on October 1st, giving employers plenty of time to prepare for the changes in their labour budget. In 2015, General Minimum Wage will be increased from $11 per hour to $11.25. Exceptions apply for students, liquor servers, and home workers.

Temporary agencies will be held accountable. Currently over 130,000 individuals in Ontario are employed through temporary employment agencies. Many companies have turned to these agencies as an affordable and convenient staffing solution, but this arrangement has the potential to create an unstable employment situation for the workers involved. In the past, temp employees were advised to contact their agency if they needed to call in sick, report issues with their employer, or any other workplace-related concern. However, employment agencies have very little contact with their workers once they have been placed, leaving the employees feeling stuck in a difficult situation and unsure where to turn. Starting this year, both the temp agency and the employer themselves will share equal responsibility for the handling the employee’s human resources issues.

Those who stood for change are satisfied to see the advancements in Ontario’s employment laws. Our workers are the backbone of the provincial economy, and their safety and financial well-being are essential to keep Ontario moving in the right direction.

Understand the various types of workplace leave

Time off is required by employees for numerous reasons. Positive life experiences such as a much anticipated vacation or a maternity leave to care for a new baby require a break from an employee’s duties. Some unexpected life events such as a serious illness can also force an employee to step away from their job. Fortunately, Ontario’s Employment Standards Act (ESA) recognizes a variety of workplace leaves.

Vacation Time – Most employees, including part-time, seasonal, and student employees are eligible for vacation time. The ESA recognizes both paid and non-paid vacation time. For full-time employees, the vacation time is generally accrued over the first twelve months of consecutive employment. In this case, vacation pay must be at least four percent of the gross wages earned during the year. Many employers offer a compensation package that exceeds the minimum requirements, but they are under no obligation to do so.

Public Holidays – In Ontario, the ESA recognizes nine public holidays. Employees in most fields qualify for the days off with full pay. If the employee agrees to work on the holiday, they may be entitled to an additional premium rate of pay or another day off with pay. Public holiday pay is calculated based on your income during the four weeks prior to the week of the holiday.

Pregnancy Leave & Parental Leave – New moms who have been employed for a minimum of 13 weeks prior to the baby’s due date have the right to take up to 17 weeks off work. New parents who have been employed for a minimum of 13 weeks before the baby’s expected due date are also entitled to an additional time off in the form of a parental leave. In most cases, the birth mother will take advantage of both leaves, and will be granted a total of one year off work. However, both parents can be off at the same time on parental leave. The employer is not obligated to pay the employee during the time off, but in most cases the new parents will qualify for Employment Insurance to subsidize their lost wages.

Personal Emergency Leave – The ESA grants most of Ontario’s workers up to 10 days of unpaid workplace leave due to personal injury, illness, or emergency that affects themselves or an immediate family member or dependant. The days don’t necessarily need to be consecutive, and may include partial days off. However, this type of leave does not apply to everyone. In most cases, you must work for an organization that has 50 or more employees to qualify.

Family Medical Leave – If an employee’s family member or dependant falls ill, and has a significant chance of dying within a 26 week period, the employee is entitled to a leave of up to eight weeks. An employer is not obligated to pay for the time off, but in most cases the employee will qualify for Employment Insurance Compassionate Care Benefits. The person receiving care doesn’t necessarily need to be an immediate family member. They could be a step-child, aunt, or anyone else who considers the employee “like family” and requires their care during this difficult time.

If you are seeking time off, and are concerned that your employer is not complying with the Employment Standards Act, contact an employment lawyer to learn about your rights.

Source: www.worksmartontario.gov.on.ca

I think I’ve Been Wrongfully Terminated

If your employment has been terminated, it is important to know what your rights are. If you even question whether your employer has acted in accordance with the law, you should call a lawyer.

However, trying to understand employment law can be daunting. Especially when you are dealing with the stress of losing your job.

KCY at LAW is a law firm serving Burlington that specializes in wrongful dismissal cases.

“Wrongful dismissal” or “wrongful termination” are broad terms. You will need the help of an experienced employment lawyer to determine if your termination was wrongful. An overview of the subject, however, will help you orient yourself.

The Employment Standards Act

The Employment Standards Act, 2000 provides the minimum standards for working in Ontario. There are some employers and employees who are not covered by the Act. This includes sectors falling under federal jurisdiction, including banks, airlines and post offices. These sectors are covered by the Canada Labour Code.

You may consult the Act and its regulations for a complete listing of those it does not cover.

In addition, employees represented by a union cannot sue their employers for wrongful dismissal. They must use the grievance procedure contained in the collective agreement instead.

Wrongful Dismissal and Notice of Termination

Not everyone is aware that employers can terminate an employee without giving a reason for the termination. This type of situation is called “without cause” termination.

However, if your employer dismissed you, they must provide you with written notice of termination or termination pay. The employer may also provide you with a combination of both that together equal the length of notice you are entitled to receive.

Another common exception to termination notice or pay in lieu of notice is if you have been employed for less than three months.

There are many other exemptions, some of them complex. For further information, consult the Termination Pay section of Your Guide to the Employment Standards Act, 2000, available on the Ministry of Labour site.

The period of notice required is generally determined by the length of the employee’s employment. The Employment Standards Act requires a notice period of:

  • One week in the first year of employment after the first three months
  • An additional week per year of employment after that, to a maximum of eight weeks

During the notice period, your employment must continue as it always has. That is, your employer must not:

  • Reduce your wage rate
  • Alter a term or condition of employment

Your employer must:

  • Continue to make the contributions required to maintain your benefit plan
  • Pay you the wages you are entitled to, which cannot be less than your regular wages for a regular workweek each week

It is not “wrongful” under the Employment Standards Act to dismiss an employee without cause. It is only “wrongful” if the employer has not followed the procedure for this kind of termination as given in the Act.

The Employment Standards Act only provides the minimum standards for working in Ontario. You may have greater rights under the common law.

Courts will consider many factors in determining what counts as “reasonable notice.” The leading case in the area is Bardal v. Globe and Mail Ltd. (1960), and the factors include:

  • Length of service
  • Age of employee
  • Position held by employee

Other Instances

There are also other instances where you may be able to sue for wrongful dismissal. For example, if you have worked for an employer for at least five years, you may be able to pursue a claim for severance pay.

To be entitled to severance pay, not only must you have worked for your employer for five or more years, but your employer must either:

  • Have a payroll in Ontario of at least $2.5 million, or
  • Have severed the employment of 50 or more employees in a six-month period.

You should consult an experienced employment lawyer if you suspect your rights have been violated under the Human Rights Code.

These are not the only situations that may count as “wrongful dismissal.” If you are looking for a wrongful dismissal lawyer in Burlington, Oakville, Milton or Hamilton, KCY at LAW deals routinely with wrongful dismissal cases and can answer all of your questions. Kathy Chittley-Young has the experience to protect your rights through negotiation or litigation as necessary.