The Ontario government is working for workers by proposing updates to employment laws that would respond to more workers being remote and a changing economy. Under the proposed changes, employees who work solely from home would be eligible for the same enhanced notice as "in-office" and other employees in mass termination situations. This would ensure that remote employees receive the same eight week minimum notice of termination or pay-in-lieu, preventing companies from taking advantage of them.
“Whether you commute to work every day or not shouldn’t determine what you are owed. No billion-dollar company should be treating their remote employees as second-class,” said Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development. “The future of work is here, and our government will continue to lead the country in ensuring workers have the protections they need to find better jobs and earn bigger paycheques in the 21st century economy.”
Also, under Ontario’s Employment Standards Act (ESA), employers are currently only required to share the latest version of the employment standards poster, which outlines ESA workplace rights and responsibilities, with new employees. To protect precarious employees, the government is also proposing regulatory changes that would require employers to provide new hires with information in writing about their job, such as pay, work location and hours of work, and the date by which that information needs to be provided (e.g. before their first shift).
"We applaud Minister McNaughton for taking steps to ensure that all workers in Ontario are afforded the same rights and protections, regardless of their workplace setting," said Chris Albinson, CEO and President of Communitech.
These proposed changes are part of a larger package that expands on the ground-breaking actions in the Working for Workers Acts, 2021 and 2022, which are already helping millions of people by introducing additional supports that embrace the future of work.
- The COVID-19 pandemic has initiated the largest shift to remote work in history. In the fourth quarter of 2022, about 2.2 million people worked from home, with about 1.4 million doing so on an exclusive basis and about 800,000 doing so on a hybrid basis.
- The ESA’s notice rules for mass termination apply when the employment of 50 or more employees is terminated at an employer's establishment within a four-week period. In the case of a mass termination, an employee could be entitled to eight, 12 or 16 weeks’ notice, depending on the number of employees terminated.
- The proposed changes, if passed, would broaden the definition of “establishment” to include employees’ remote home offices, making employees who solely work remotely from home eligible to received enhanced notice.
- Generally, under the ESA, an employee who is terminated after five years of service would be entitled to five weeks of paid notice or pay-in-lieu under individual termination rules, but if that employee is one of 100 employees terminated at an employer’s establishment within a four-week period then that employee would be entitled to eight weeks of paid notice or pay-in-lieu.
- An Ipsos survey conducted on behalf of the Ontario Workforce Recovery Advisory Committee revealed that 89 per cent of people in Ontario believe that the workplace has changed permanently due to COVID-19 and the province needs to act to update employment regulations, as a result.