The Law Commission of Ontario recommends that:
1. a) The Ontario government, in consultation with labour and owner/management stakeholders, update, review and streamline the exemptions within the ESA and related regulations including a review of existing occupational specific exemptions, with the objective of ensuring any exemptions are justified on current public policy and industry considerations; and
b) the review develop and use principles that aim to promote a broadly available minimum floor of basic workers’ rights, including that justifications for exemptions be balanced against the need to reduce precarious work and provide basic minimum standards to a broader sector of the working population.
2. The Ontario government consider codifying within the ESA a broad policy statement highlighting its commitment to protecting basic minimum employment rights, supporting compliance and fostering public, employer and employee awareness and education.
3. The Ontario government convene the minimum wage Committee, or similar body, to review minimum wage issues and recommend a transparent and fair process for determining future adjustments to minimum wage that balances business, economic, labour and poverty issues.
4. The Ontario government consider amendments to the ESA to require all workers in equivalent positions to be paid at least at the same rate as their permanent full-time equivalents.
5. The Ontario government, in consultation with labour, management and insurance representatives, explore options for the provision of benefits for non-standard and other workers without benefits coverage, with consideration given to the concepts of a benefits bank and mandatory short-term contract premium for temporary workers, among other options.
6. The Ontario government review personal emergency leave provisions in the ESA to determine ways to extend the benefit to workers in workplaces with fewer than 50 employees (including part-time, casual and temporary employees).
7. The Ministry of Labour:
a) launch a public awareness campaign on Employment Standards Act rights and responsibilities;
b) to support workers’ and employers’ needs for additional information about the ESA, continue to offer and to expand capacity for providing outreach through ESA informational/educational sessions including but not limited to those in high risk sectors and groups; and
c) develop partnerships with employer, employee and community organizations to enhance worker and employer knowledge of ESA rights and responsibilities.
8. The Ontario government amend the ESA to require employers to provide the ESA poster in document format to all new employees in English and, to the extent possible, in the language of the employee.
9. a) The Ontario government amend the ESA to require employers to provide all employees with written notice of their employment status and terms of their employment contract; and
b) the Ministry of Labour develop standard forms to support employers in this task.
10. The Ministry of Labour’s ESA enforcement continue to use a range of strategies including voluntary compliance, proactive inspections and responding to individual complaints. However, there should be greater emphasis on proactive enforcement processes.
11. The Ministry of Labour:
a) engage in data collection and evaluation to determine the impact of the policy requiring employees to approach employers prior to initiating an ESA claim; and
b) consider reversal of policy if evaluation reveals negative impacts such as declines in claims attributable to the policy changes.
12. The Ministry of Labour improve communication about the vulnerable worker exemptions to approaching employers at the outset of an ESA claim.
13. The Ontario government facilitate and expedite the ESA claims-making process, by providing a mechanism for workers and employers to obtain person-to-person assistance in the claims process through additional support services such as Legal Aid Ontario clinics, Office of the Employment Standards Advisor and/or other types of worker and employer support services.
14. The Ontario government:
a) expand time limitations to two years for all ESA remedies; and
b) raise the ESA monetary cap to $25,000.
15. The Ministry of Labour:
a) develop a mechanism - such as a hotline – for ESOs to receive third-party and/or anonymous complaints which could trigger proactive inspections; and
b) develop corresponding policy criteria to ensure that unfounded complaints did not trigger unwarranted inspections.