Canada: Ontario Special Advisors Issue Interim Report on the Changing Workplace

In May 2015, the Ontario government appointed two Special Advisors to review the modern-day workplace and to consider whether the Ontario Labour Relations Act, 1995 ("OLRA") and the Ontario Employment Standards Act, 2000 ("ESA") require amendments to reflect workplaces as we know them today (the so called “Changing Workplaces Review”). The Changing Workplaces Review was initiated to deal with the government’s primary concerns with key workplace-related issues, including non-standard working relationships, the expanding service sector, workplace diversity, technological change and globalization, and trade liberalization. After more than a year, on July 27, 2016, the Advisors issued a lengthy Interim Report, which does not identify any specific recommendations, but confirms the issues being considered, presents the range of options under scrutiny, and invites further input from stakeholders.

All aspects of the ESA and OLRA are open for review and debate with three exceptions: minimum wages; the OLRA provisions relating to the construction industry; and any matter for which independent review exists, including compulsory interest arbitrations and broader public sector bargaining. The Ontario government wanted the review to be as wide-ranging as possible because of the importance of work in our society. The government’s focus has been on enhancing protections for workers and support for business as part of its overall economic plan to build up Ontario by growing the economy and creating jobs.

Last year the Ontario government appointed Michael Mitchell and The Honourable John C. Murray (former justice of the Ontario Superior Court) as Special Advisors to undertake the review. The Special Advisors then received written submissions from employers, unions, employees, various associations and other interested stakeholders, and conducted public consultations across Ontario from June to September 2015.

The stated purposes of the July 2016 Interim Report are to identify the issues and the options for amendments to the ESA and OLRA and to provide an appropriate opportunity for further input before the Advisors issue a Final Report with their recommendations. To that end, the Interim Report identifies approximately 50 issues and over 225 options relating to those issues. The range of those options is very broad. The Final Report will likely be issued early in 2017.

The Advisors confirmed that they have not yet come to any final conclusions (with one exception regarding exemptions to the ESA) and have an “open mind” on all issues. With respect to a comment deadline, the Advisors have established a closing date of August 31, 2016, for any input on the “personal emergency leave” options identified in the Interim Report, and October 14, 2016, for feedback on all other options identified in the Interim Report.

Stay tuned. The changes to the OLRA and ESA will likely be substantial.

Information contained in this publication is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or opinion, nor is it a substitute for the professional judgment of an attorney.