Bill 66 is a new bill in Ontario that will have very real consequences for employees. In particular, there are changes to overtime pay and the number of hours you can work per week. If you have any questions regarding new law contact Stacey R. Ball – Employment Lawyer in Toronto today.
A bit of background
The official name of Bill 66 is the “Restoring Ontario’s Competitiveness Act, 2018”. It was introduced by the Ford government in 2018. It makes changes to the Employment Standards Act and the Labour Relations Act. The Bill passed into law in April 2019, so the changes are now in effect.
Why propose this Bill?
Bill 66 is supposed to reduce regulation for employers, by cutting red tape in various industries. The goal is to make Ontario more competitive and attractive to businesses, as the name suggests.
What are some of the changes?
48+ hour workweek under the ESA
Before Bill 66, employers and employees could agree that the employee would work more than the 48 hour work week, if the arrangement was approved by the Ministry of Labour’s Director of Employment Standards.
This requirement is gone. Employers can now enter into employment contracts with employees for 48+ workweeks.
On the one hand, it’s a positive that an employee has to agree to the arrangement for more than 48 hours/week. However, there may still be imbalances in bargaining power which make it challenging for an employee to decline. Employees may feel like they have no choice in the matter.
Averaging overtime under the ESA
Similarly to above, before Bill 66, if an employer and employee wanted to enter an agreement to average an employee’s hours over x number of weeks in order to calculate entitlement to overtime, they needed approval from the Director of Employment Standards.
Bill 66 has removed that requirement. This means that an employer and employee can enter into a valid agreement to average hours for overtime purposes if they so choose.
Removing the Employment Standards information in the workplace
Before Bill 66, employers had to display a poster in the workplace with Employment Standards information. Now, employers must only provide a copy to employees when they’re hired. The potential downside of this is that workers may not realize or remember their rights if they are not exposed to them on a regular basis.
Bill 66 could have an impact on businesses of any size as it loosens the restrictions for excess hours and overtime averaging agreements. It will also impact trade unions, construction projects and the bottom line of those projects as they look for cost-effective services. The Bill expands the list of “non-construction” employers, so they can now hire non-union contractors for certain projects, in the name of cost-efficiency. However, this may hurt trade unions in the province.
It is important to note that employees are still protected from reprisal. Reprisal, in this context, is an act of retaliation for asserting your rights under the Employment Standards Act. In theory, an employer could not punish an employee for refusing to sign an agreement for a 48+ hour week. However, it may be hard to tell exactly what is going on and therefore to prove reprisal.
What is going to happen to employees?
Only time will reveal the impact of these changes for Ontario’s working population. By reducing the regulations that employers have to follow, the Bill opens up employees to receive less overtime pay, work more hours and generally be less aware of their rights.
If you have concerns about your rights under this new law, please contact the professional employment lawyers at Ball Professional Corporation. We can help decipher the situation and make sure your remaining rights are enforced.