Entries in changing workplaces review (2)


Changing Workplaces Review important to all

The 300+ page interim report on the Changing Workplaces Review has now been released.  What does it mean and how will it impact employers and employees?  The review is the mechanism through which the Ontario Ministry of Labour is currently examining the Labour Relations Act and the Employment Standards Act; two pieces of legislation that impact all workplaces in Ontario.  The Review has been tasked with examining key workplace trends, including the increase in non-standard working relationships such as temporary jobs, involuntary part-time work, and self-employment.

The interim report contains hundreds of options to the legislation. The options laid out and that are presently being considered by the Special Advisors will impact nearly every aspect of the relationship between employers and employees, as well as the ability of Ontario businesses to create jobs and grow the economy.

It’s for this reason that employers and employees must have an active interest in any changes to legislation.  Keep Ontario Working is an initiative of the leading employer and sector associations in the province, including the Ontario Chamber of Commerce and is designed to provide information about how you can ensure that government is improving legislation to support workers’ rights, create jobs and grow the economy.

The employer groups believe that, “At a time when the costs to consumers and the cost of doing business in Ontario is rising, government must consider the impact that these changes will have on Ontario’s competitiveness and workers.  Any changes to labour and employment legislation will have implications for Ontario’s economy, and that’s why it’s time for all Ontarians to identify barriers to growth and recommend changes that will give businesses and their workers room to grow.”

In particular, Keep Ontario Working will focus on several policy options in the interim report that the
government is considering, including: 


  1. Labour Certification Rules: The requirement for a secret ballot vote must be maintained. Certification simply by signing a union card diminishes employees’ rights and transparency. 
  2. Scheduling Provisions:  Options that would create rigid and universal requirements and a one-size-fits-all approach to scheduling fail to recognize the diverse needs of Ontario’s workforce.
  3. Sector Exemptions: The interim report includes options that would provide for changes to sectoral exemptions. Doing so would ignore the unique needs of important industries like agriculture and information technology when it comes to flexible scheduling and compensation.


The group goes on to say:

“In an effort to solve one problem, we don’t want to impose more issues. One-size-fits-all solutions, like many outlined in the interim report, could remove the flexibility that many of Ontario’s employers and employees enjoy. We deserve evidence-based policy and the Government of Ontario should conduct a cost-benefit analysis to assess the impact on jobs and the economy for any changes to labour and employment legislation that they accept from the Changing Workplaces Review.”

For their part, the special advisors leading the review have recognized “the diversity of the Ontario economy, its businesses, and the competition they face.  A “one-size-fits-all” regulatory solution to a problem in a sector or an industry could have negative consequences if applied to all employers. The unique requirements of some businesses and/or of some employees may – in appropriate circumstances – support differentiation by sector or by industry rather than province-wide regulation.”  

There is a constant call for us to be innovative to move the economy forward.  To that end innovation must be found in all aspects of our economy, from how we build products and services, to how our workforce is supported and encouraged, to how we get those products and services to market.  


Changing workplaces: a business perspective

As the Ontario Ministry of Labour reviews the Labour Relations Act (LRA) and the Employment Standards Act (ESA), the business community is weighing in with the business perspective.  There are aspects of the ESA that are working and should be maintained and there are other areas that could be improved upon in order to keep Ontario’s competitive edge.  

“Throughout our submission, we urge you to consider the economic impacts of any proposed changes to the Labour Relations Act and the Employment Standards Act,” says Allan O’Dette, President & CEO, Ontario Chamber of Commerce. “We also urge you to consider the structural changes that the global economy has undergone over the past few decades and to consider the manner in which Ontario’s labour laws should – or should not – be used to counteract those changes.” 

Many of the 14 recommendations find their base in the policy resolutions approved by the Chamber Network at the 2015 Annual General Meeting in Cornwall this past May.  The goal of the recommendations is to ensure that Ontario is “the best place in which to live, work, and invest.” 

The Chamber Network is offering five recommendations under the Labour Relations Act and nine recommendations under the Employment Standards Act for the consideration of the Changing Workplaces Review.  

The recommendations under the LRA deal with how unions are certified and the process that should be followed, particularly when small construction employers are involved.  The fifth recommendation asks for fair and open tendering by municipalities by asking that these entities be de-classified as ‘construction employers’.  

The recommendations under the ESA relate to greater contractual or statutory right, exemptions, scheduling and refusal of work, non-standard employment and unpaid leave of absence.  One of the most pressing areas in this review is dealing with how the workforce has changed, with many employment situations now falling under the heading “Non-Standard Employment”. There are three recommendations under this heading: 

Canadian governments should take a broader and more effective approach to the growth of non-standard work by considering innovation solutions that would provide all workers with access to the benefits of the social safety net.  The Guaranteed Annual Income (GAI) is one proposal worth further study. 

Consider the broader economic and fiscal impacts of any proposed changes to the Employment Standards Act that would mandate private and public sector employers to fundamentally restructure their employment relationships with their contracted workers. 

Do not establish, through the Employment Standards Act, a reverse onus on employee status where a worker is presumed to be an employee unless the employer demonstrates otherwise. 

This past summer the Peterborough Chamber of Commerce participated in the Good Jobs Summit hosted by the United Way and the Peterborough City and County Health Unit.  The discussion by the 40 or so community members revolved around how to address the rise in precarious employment, such as contract positions or positions that do not involve the standard employment agreement between the employer and employee.  It’s an issue that is having an impact across the country.  

As an advocacy group for the business community, chambers such as the Peterborough Chamber of Commerce advocate for a business climate that allows business to thrive. This includes: 


  • less regulation
  • training and support for the skilled trades
  • a jobs strategy
  • access to a powerful workforce 
  • and numerous other Policy Resolutions all leading towards a better business climate


Legislators have an opportunity for innovation in this space recognizing that the labour force, while desiring certain fundamentals, will continue to change and adapt to the demands of the economy.  

In the end, the major underlying theme of this report is asking the government to consider the broader economic context and impact any proposed changes would have.  The Chamber Network understands the need to find “a balance between a desire to counteract the structural changes that our workforce
has undergone over the past few decades, and the need to maintain a healthy business climate” (OCC Report 2015).

Full report

Comment through the "Peterborough Chamber" group of LinkedIn.