Employers will be forgiven if they are tired of hearing about “changes to employment laws”. As Rudner Law discussed in our 2018 Year in Review, we have seen significant changes in several jurisdictions in recent times. Ontario has been particularly active: we spent months warning employers to be prepared for Bill 148, which came into force in late 2017 and early 2018 and brought about the most substantial changes to the Employment Standards Act, 2000 in decades, and then had to do a 180 degree turn as Bill 47 came into force at the beginning of 2019, effectively reversing a substantial number of those changes.
Now, as we still work to digest the changes brought about by Bill 148 and Bill 47, we also have Bill 66, which was passed earlier in April. Bill 66 amended the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA), the Labour Relations Act, 1995(LRA) and the Pension Benefits Act. Among other things, Bill 66 will make it easier for employers to have their employees work longer hours.
Most changes under Bill 66 are already in effect, save for those in the Labour Relations Act.
Excess Hours of Work
In Ontario, the maximum hours of work is, by default, 48. However, the employer and employee can agree to exceed that amount. Previously, once the parties had agreed, they also had to obtain approval from the Director of Employment Standards. However, that is no longer required.
Overtime averaging can be a tremendous tool. By default, employees that work more than 44 hours in a week are entitled to overtime pay on the hours beyond 44. However, the parties can agree to average the hours worked over up to four weeks.
For example, an employee that works 35 hours in week one and 50 in week two would be entitled to six hours of overtime (at time and a half) for the second week. However, if they agreed to average the hours worked, then overtime pay would not be required.
Like excess hours, the approval of the Director of Employment Standards was previously required, but is no longer.
Previously, employers were required to post the ESA poster, which sets out employee rights, in a conspicuous location in the workplace. Under Bill 66, employers are still required to provide employees with a copy of the poster when they are hired, but the posting requirement has been eliminated.
Bill 66 removes some formalities for implementing agreements for employees to work excess hours or to have their hours averaged over several weeks for purposes of overtime entitlement. However, the agreement of the employee is still required.
Employers must remember that they are obligated to provide the ESA poster, which succinctly summarizes employee rights in the workplace, to all employees. However, it no longer has to be posted on a bulletin board in the lunchroom or some other conspicuous place.