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HRPA Niagara hosts a refresher on Ontario workplace law

Updated: Oct 19, 2022

A recent legal update presented by Human Resources Professional Association Niagara Chapter provided some clarity about recent provincial changes to the province’s minimum employment standards and labour legislation. The presentation by lawyer Casey Dockendorff also covered ground relating to the Cannabis Act, and served as a refresher to managing workplace accommodations under Human Rights Code legislation.

At the November 21 White Oaks dinner, Dockendorff noted cannabis legalization presents a “culture shift”. However, consuming recreational cannabis in the workplace remains illegal in Ontario after legalization on October 17, 2018. Use of pot also meshes with an organization’s drugs-and-intoxication in the workplace policy, and here, it’s probably wise to have such a policy updated, if you haven’t already done so. Employers will also have to consider risk and safety issues.

Supervisory and management training relating to cannabis use in any new policy, and identifying signs of cannabis impairment, is also recommended. Medical cannabis for disabilities is subject to different rules than recreational cannabis: there remains a duty to accommodate, subject to an analysis of the disability, restrictions, nature of the job and safety issues.

Bill 47, which recently received Royal Assent, modified or rolled back many changes introduced by previous Ontario Liberal government’s Bill 148. Notable was a minimum wage freeze at $15/ hour until October 2020, with future increases afterward tied to the rate of inflation.

Personal Emergency Leave is also being Replaced by Sick Leave, Family Responsibility Leave, and Bereavement Leave. The total number of personal leave days is down to eight from 10. Three of those unpaid days are for personal illness, two for bereavement and three for family responsibilities.

Also repealed were provisions for equal pay for equal work on the basis of employment status (such as being part-time or when employment is supplied through temporary help agencies.)

Most of the previous reforms relating to scheduling and notification were repealed. The three-hour minimum pay rule has been maintained, where an employee is regularly scheduled to work more than three hours, attends work but actually works less than three hours.

For the most part, proposed changes to the Labour Relations Act, which covers unionized workplaces, have reverted to what was originally in the Act.

Participants were also given a refresher by Dockendorff on the duty to accommodate employees back into the workplace, where the general rule is that duty ends when it creates undue hardship. Service animals and therapy dogs are also becoming more commonplace in return to work arrangements, and here an employer has to assess the impact that it will have in the workplace and other employees. That said, these therapy-dog arrangements are showing some signs of success, she said.

Many of the Employment Standards Act changes reflected in Bill 47 are slated to begin on January 1, 2019.



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