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What Bill 148: the “Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act” means for your business

UPDATE: On October 23, 2018, the Ontario government announced that it would reverse many of the changes implemented through Bill 148. We will update this post soon with more information. For now, though, the bill remains in effect.

Ontario’s new “Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act” (Bill 148, 2017) is a major overhaul of the rules governing your workplace. Here are some of the major changes that might impact your business.

Minimum Wages – Starting January 1, 2018

CategoryCurrent RateJanuary 1, 2019
Liquor Servers$12.20$13.05
Students (under 18)
who work less than
28 hrs per week or
less when school is
in session or work
during a school holiday

After January 1, 2019, the minimum wage will be indexed to inflation. The first inflationary increase will be announced in spring 2019, and will take effect on October 1, 2019.

Personal Emergency Leave 

All businesses are required to allow all employees up to 10 days of personal emergency leave (PEL) per calendar year. The entitlement kicks in after seven days of employment. The first two days taken must be paid at the employee’s regular rate. PEL may be taken for:

  • A personal illness or medical emergency
  • The death, illness, injury or medical emergency of a family member or person the employee considers a family member
  • An urgent matter concerning a family member or person an employee considers a family member

As an employer, you are not allowed to request a doctor’s note as proof for the leave.

Vacation – January 1, 2018

All employees who have been with your business for at least five years are entitled to three weeks of vacation. Vacation pay rises to six (6) per cent for employees that have worked for your business for five years or more.

Equal Pay for Equal Work:

As of April 1, 2018, you cannot pay full-time and non-full-time (part-time, contract, casual, seasonal, temporary) employees a different rate of pay for performing “substantially the same kind of work”.

Substitute Public Holidays 

You must provide your employees with written notice of substitute public holidays. The notice must include the holiday on which the employee will work, the date of the day being substituted for the holiday, and the date on which the notice is provided to the employee.

Calculating Holiday Pay

  • Before July 1, 2018: In order to calculate your employees' public holiday pay; take all regular wages earned by the employee in the pay period before the public holiday, divided by the number of days the employee worked in that period.
  • After July 1, 2018: In order to calculate your employees' public holiday pay; take the gross wages over the last four weeks before the holiday and divide by 20.

Card-based Union Certification 

If you are in the temporary help agency, building services, or home care and community services industries, unionization rules are changing for your business. Under the Act, if more than 55 per cent of your employees sign union cards, your business may be unionized without a secret ballot vote.

Union Access to Employee Information

If 20 per cent of your employees sign up to unionize, the union may request and receive access to the contact information of all of your employees through the Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB). If directed by the OLRB, you must hand over the information, which includes names, phone numbers, and email addresses. This applies to businesses in all sectors.


The Ontario government will hire an additional 175 employment standards inspectors by 2020-2021 to ensure the new rules are followed. Fines for violations are increasing by roughly 30 per cent, and if you are found to be in violation of any rule, you may be publicly named on the Ministry of Labour website.

Scheduling – January 1, 2019

Shift cancellations must be made at least 48 hours (two days) in advance. (If a cancellation is made within 48 hours of the scheduled shift, you must pay the employee for at least three hours of work at their regular rate.) This provision may not apply if “the nature of the employee’s work is weather-dependent and the employer is unable to provide work for the employee for weather-related reasons”.

All employees who are “on-call” must be paid for at least three hours of work at their regular rate, even if they don’t get called in to work.

Employees must be given 96 hours’ (four days) notice of any new shift. (If a new shift is created within 96 hours of its start time, the employee has the right to refuse the shift with no repercussions.)

As an employer, you will also be responsible for tracking the dates and times your employees are scheduled to work, or be on-call, and any changes made to that schedule. For cancellations, you must keep records of which shifts were cancelled, as well as the date and time each cancellation was made.

Offsetting Measures

The government announced the following business-related measures in the 2017 Fall Economic Statement:

  • A reduction in the provincial small business tax rate from 4.5 per cent to 3.5 per cent effective January 1, 2018.
  • A youth-hiring incentive of $1,000 for small businesses (100 employees or fewer) that fill a new position with a young person aged 15-29, with an additional $1,000 for retaining that person for six months. (Note: This program is available only for hires through “Employment Service Ontario”.)
  • Sixty million dollars in focused supports for fruit and vegetable producers. (Note: Eligible producers will receive payments for two years based on eligible net sales.)
  • A Graduated Apprenticeship Grant for Employers that provides bonuses to businesses with apprentices who belong to under-represented groups (e.g., women, Indigenous peoples, Francophones, people with disabilities, newcomers, and visible minorities) when they complete training levels or attain certification.

We believe the government needs to go much further to offset the impact of the minimum wage increases and labour changes on your business. Leading up to next year’s budget, we will push government to provide additional relief measures for small businesses.

Webinar: Ontario is targeting retailers on Bill 148. Are you ready?