Open for Business- Proposed changes to the Employment Standards Act, 2000

By: Ellen A.S. Low
Bill 68, Ontario’s Open for Business Act, 2010, recently passed second reading. If passed, the Bill would implement changes to the Ontario Employment Standards Act, 2000 (the “ESA”).
Among other things, the amendments would require an employee to advise their employer about an employment-standards dispute or disagreement before launching a formal complaint with the Ministry of Labour.
Presently, employees are under no obligation to tell their employer that they believe there has been an infraction of the ESA, and employees can file a complaint with the Ministry of Labour without previous warning.
Critics of the Bill suggest that making employees tell their employer about an alleged infraction may reduce the over-all number of complaints and leave employees vulnerable to reprisal for trying to enforce their rights.  If nothing else, it would put employees in an uncomfortable position by requiring them to advise their employer in advance that they intend to launch a complaint.
The changes have been proposed by the Ministry of Labour as part of their initiative to advance fairness in the workplace, and to modernize its Employment Standards program.  Among other things, these initiatives include launching a task force to eliminate a backlog of 14,000 claims, an online severance pay decision tool, and a future termination of employment/temporary lay-off tool to determine when a layoff becomes a termination.
Regardless of whether Bill 68 passes, employees should consult with an employment lawyer in a termination or lay-off situation.  As previously mentioned in other blog posts, the Ministry of Labor will only ever enforce the provincial legislation, and will not consider an employee’s full entitlement, and all available remedies.