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Why Is Everyone Leaving?: An Update on the Employment Standards Act
Kristen Morris
Kristen Morris

By now most people in Ontario have become aware that the minimum wage has increased to $14.00 per hour but not everyone is mindful of the other changes to employment law which were made at the same time. The Fair Workplaces Better Jobs Act, 2017 made a number of changes to the Employment Standards Act, 2000, the Labour Relations Act, 1995 and the Occupational Health and Safety Act over the next two years. This article’s focus is on the changes to the Employment Standards Act, 2000. Here are some of the important changes which have already taken effect. A new rule prohibiting an employer from treating an employee as if they were not an employee has been created. This seems too obvious to require a rule but the issue would arise when there is question as to whether an individual is an employee or an independent contractor. If an employer treats a person as an independent contractor, the employer has to be able to prove that the person is not an employee. Employers should always be careful when hiring contractors to determine whether the nature of the employment gives rise to an employer employee relationship. If employers are incorrect in their assessment they could face prosecution under the Employment Standards Act, 2000 and risk vicarious liability for that employee’s actions. Employees who take parental leave are now allowed to take up to 63 weeks of parental leave. This change was made to match Employment Insurance Act benefits provisions. Critical illness leave has been extended include to care for adult relatives. An employee can take unpaid leave to care for a critically ill adult family member for up to 17 weeks. Family Medical leave is still available for 28 weeks but the definition of a qualified health practitioner has been expanded and the definition of who qualifies for this leave has been clarified. Personal Emergency leave is now required of all employers, and the first two days must be paid. The statute also prohibits employers from requiring a doctor’s note for an employee taking personal emergency leave. Sexual or Domestic violence leave is available for an employee of 13 weeks if they or their children experienced or have been threatened with domestic or sexual violence. This leave must be taken for a specifically named purpose in the statue and can be taken for up to 15 weeks. The end date for pregnancy leave for employees who are not entitled to parental leave has been increased to 12 weeks after the birth, still-birth, or miscarriage. These changes have an ongoing impact on employment relationships in Ontario. More changes are set to take effect in April of this year and January 2019. Scott Buchanan is an associate at the law firm of Cobb & Jones LLP. For more articles, visit the Library Page at