Bill 27 Working for Workers Act 2021 and Disconnecting from Work Policies
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As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, Ontario’s labour market has experienced significant disruptions and a permanently shifted work landscape. Employers are grappling with redefined work locations, rapidly changing public health standards, and the need for economic revitalization. As part of the province’s recovery scheme, Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labour Training and Skills Development, established the Ontario Workforce Recovery Advisory Committee (OWRAC). The Committee’s mandate is to “provide recommendations to position Ontario as the best place in North America to recruit, retain and reward workers.” Its work centers around three pillars: economic recovery, strengthening Ontario’s competitive position, and supporting workers. Integral to the Committee’s work were community stakeholder consultations involving workers, employers, and unions, which invited submissions by July 31, 2021. 
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A Proposed Ban on Non-Competes
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On October 25, Ontario Bill 27, Working for Workers Act, 2021 (“the Bill”) passed first reading. This Bill proposes amendments to our key Ontario employment statutes, including the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (the “ESA”) and the Occupational Health and Safety Act. In today’s post, we will review highlights regarding the proposed ban on non-competes and talk about how Ontario businesses can prepare. 

A Ban On Non-Competes

One much-discussed element of the Bill is the proposed ban on non-competition agreements in employment contracts. 

A non-competition agreement restricts – or tries to – an employee’s ability, for a period of time, to work for a competitor after leaving the employer. The restriction is usually somewhere between three months to two years. 
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Bill 132 - Sexual Violence and Harassment Action Plan Date
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In response to the provincial government’s March 2015 report entitled  “It’s Never Okay: An Action Plan to Stop Sexual Violence and Harassment,” the Ontario legislature passed Bill 132 – Sexual Violence and Harassment Action Plan in March 2016, which entered into force in September of that year. This Bill amended Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA), establishing specific requirements with respect to sexualized harassment and violence prevention in Ontario’s workplaces. In turn, employers have since had additional responsibilities to understand, address and eliminate workplace sexual harassment and violence beyond previous measures. This requires sound and updated workplace policies, sufficient workplace training, and additional competencies to ensure compliance with the OHSA via, amongst other things, informed and diligent workplace investigations.
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Minimum Wage Increase in Ontario
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As of October 1, 2021, minimum wage rates in Ontario increased. The increases are tied to the 2020 Ontario Consumer Price Index under the Making Ontario Open for Business Act. The general minimum wage for provincially regulated employees has increased by 10 cents – from $14.25 per hour to $14.35 per hour. The minimum wage rates for students, liquor servers, hunting and fishing guides, homeworkers, and wilderness guides have also increased. The Ministry of Labour has published a handy chart with a list of the minimum wage rates.

What about alternative pay arrangements (non-hourly, non-salaried, room and board)?

Employers should note that these rate increases also apply to employees who earn commission – these employees’ pay must amount to at least the minimum wage for each hour the employee has worked. 
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Job Consequences for Employees Refusing Mandatory Vaccination
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We are getting lots of questions from employers and employees about vaccination. We addressed many of these questions a few weeks ago in our post Unvaccinated Employees and Mandatory Vaccination. Now that a little bit of time has passed, we are getting more questions about the possible job consequences for employees who are unvaccinated. 

Why is the Employee not Vaccinated?

Before considering what job consequences might be appropriate, it’s crucial for employers to understand the employee’s reasons for being unvaccinated. In rare circumstances, an employee may be entitled to a legitimate exemption from a mandatory vaccination policy. Employees who have legitimate exemptions based on medical or religious grounds will be entitled to protection from discrimination by human rights legislation. While it still may not be appropriate to allow an unvaccinated employee with a legitimate reason for an exemption from attending in person at the office, they will be entitled to accommodation. The range of accommodations is wide, from placing an employee on an unpaid leave of absence to allowing them to continue their work remotely. For more information on legitimate reasons for exemptions and accommodation, see our past post
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IDEL COVID-19 Period Extended to January 1, 2022
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The COVID-19 period for Ontario’s Infectious Disease Emergency Leave (IDEL) has once again been extended, this time to January 1, 2022. The COVID-19 period for this leave which, at its inauguration was set to end on September 4, 2020, has been extended multiple times – first to January 2, 2021, then to July 3, 2021, then again to September 25, 2021, and now into the new year. 

To Whom Does this Leave Apply?

This IDEL applies to employees who were laid off or had their hours temporarily reduced from March 1, 2020 to January 1, 2022. Employees on this deemed IDEL are exempted, under a provincial regulation that amended certain segments of the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (“ESA”), from being deemed to have been terminated. These employees are not owed ESA notice or severance pay. 
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proof of vaccination
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On September 1, 2021, the Ontario government announced that, beginning September 22, 2021, Ontario residents will be required to provide proof of full COVID-19 vaccination (meaning that both doses of an approved COVID-19 vaccine must have been administered at least fourteen days prior), in the form of a printout or PDF receipt of vaccination status, plus photo identification, in order to enter certain non-essential business sites. A vaccine verification app and QR code, to be used by various businesses and organizations, are currently under development. 

Where Proof of Vaccination Will and Will Not be Required in Ontario 

The vaccine certificate program requires that non-essential businesses restrict entry to their premises to those who have valid proof of vaccination, as outlined above. Non-essential businesses include restaurants (indoor dining only); nightclubs (indoor and outdoor areas); theatres, music festivals, concerts, and cinemas; night clubs, strip clubs, bathhouses, and sex clubs; racing venues; casinos and gaming establishments; fitness and recreational centres (except youth recreational sport); and meeting spaces.
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Unvaccinated Employees and Mandatory Vaccination
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Both employers and employees are asking questions related to mandatory vaccinations and consequences for employees who don’t get them. Here we run through some of those FAQs!

Q: If vaccinations are deemed to be “mandatory” for workers, are there any legal exemptions?

A: Yes, in some cases there will be legal exceptions to a job requirement that employees be vaccinated. These exceptions come from the Ontario Human Rights Code (the “Code”), which prohibits discrimination in employment based on protected grounds. The protected grounds likely to be engaged with respect to a vaccination requirement are disability and creed. If the exemption is based on a medical reason, it will fall under disability. Religious reasons will fall under creed.
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employees duty to mitigate
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Employees who have been wrongfully dismissed from their employment have a legal duty to mitigate. In other words, these employees must look for new employment if they wish to seek a termination payment from their former employers. Regardless of whether an employee successfully secures new employment prior to the end of their notice period, the court will still look to see that the employee took reasonable steps to find alternative comparable employment. If the court is not satisfied that the employee has made proper efforts to do so, it may reduce or deny the termination pay the former employer would otherwise be ordered to pay to the employee. A recent decision, Lake v. La Presse (2018) Inc., 2021 ONSC 3506, underlines the repercussions an employee could face if they fail to take such reasonable steps to mitigate their damages.

The Case of Lake v. La Presse (2018) Inc.

In this 2021 Ontario Superior Court case, the Court reduced a former employee’s common law/reasonable notice period from eight to six months due to the employee’s failure to mitigate their damages. 
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reasonable termination notice
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How much notice should you give your employee on termination? A recent decision of the Ontario Superior Court in Herreros v Glencore Canada reiterates that when calculating the period of reasonable notice owed to a wrongfully dismissed employee, it is the circumstances at the time of termination that matter. 

The rule comes from a decision of the Ontario Court of Appeal in Holland v Hostopia.com. It states: “Notice is to be determined by the circumstances existing at the time of termination and not by the amount of time that it takes the employee to find employment”. We blogged about the rule here and here in our updates about employment litigation during the pandemic. 
Continue Reading Reasonable Notice: An Opportunity Not A Guarantee