On November 6, 2014, the Stronger Workplaces for a Stronger Economy Act, 2014 (the “Act”), also known as Bill 18, passed third reading in the Ontario legislature. The Act includes a number of significant changes of concern for Ontario employers including:
1. The Act prescribes an annual minimum wage review, and links all future minimum wage increases directly to the Consumer Price Index for Ontario. The minimum wage rate will be announced in April of each year, and will come into effect as of October 1st of that year.
2. Unpaid co-op students and other “unpaid learners” will be specifically included in the definition of “worker” under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (the “OHSA”). This will extend the rights given to all workers under the OHSA to students and other unpaid workers, such as the right to refuse unsafe work.
3. The Act will eliminate the current $10,000 cap on the recovery of unpaid wages through orders to pay issued by the Ontario Ministry of Labour. In addition, the period of time for which an employee will be able to seek recovery of unpaid wages will be increased from six months to two years.
4. The Act will introduce new requirements for temporary help agencies, and the employers who utilize the services of temporary help agencies, including making both parties jointly and severally liable for certain employment standards violations. These violations include the failure to pay regular wages, overtime pay, public holiday pay and premium pay.
Some of the new requirements under the Act will come into force immediately upon the Act receiving Royal Assent. Other requirements will come into force based on specific schedules established under the Act. For example, the changes to the monetary cap and time limit for recovery of wages through the Ministry of Labour are scheduled to come into force three months after the Act receives Royal Assent.