Human Resources

Human Resources

Human Resources

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Legislative Policy Changes

The Ontario government has amended the Employment Standards Act (“ESA”), the Labour Relations Act and the Occupational Health and Safety Act through the passage of Bill 148, the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act. With certain exceptions, the changes to the ESA are in effect as of January 1, 2018. One such exception is the change to the ESA related to extending the length of statutorily protected parental leave to align with changes to parental leave EI benefits announced by the Federal Government in the March 2017 budget – the changes to the length of this leave will come into effect on December 3, 2017. Following upon the passage of Bill 127, the Stronger, Healthier Ontario Act (Budget Measures), 2017, changes to the definition of “Chronic Mental Stress” under WSIB Policy will also come into effect on January 1, 2018.

For more information, please see below:

Employment Standards Act - Bill 148 – Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act
  • An increase of Ontario's general minimum wage to $14 per hour on January 1, 2018, and then to $15 on January 1, 2019, followed by annual increases at the rate of inflation.
     
  • A mandate of equal pay for part-time, temporary, casual and seasonal employees doing the same job as full-time employees; and equal pay for temporary help agency employees doing the same job as employees at the agencies' client companies (April 1, 2018).
     
  • An expansion of personal emergency leave to 10 days per calendar year for all employees, with at least two paid days per year for employees who have been employed for at least a week (Jan 1, 2018).
     
  • Certain restrictions on an employer’s ability to require a doctor's sick note from an employee taking personal emergency leave (Jan 1, 2018).
     
  • A provision for up to 17 weeks off without the fear of losing their job when a worker or their child has experienced or is threatened with domestic or sexual violence, including paid leave for the first five days (Jan 1, 2018).
     
  • A provision for at least three weeks' of vacation after five years of continuous employment with the same employer. This will affect the vacation pay rate for casual employees with more than 5 years of continuous service. The rate for those employees will increase from 4% to 6% (Jan 1, 2018).
     
  • Introduction of a rule for overtime pay for employees who have two or more regular rates for work performed by the same employer. (Jan 1, 2018).
     
  • A change to the rule for the calculation of statutory holiday pay (Jan 1, 2018).
     
  • Introduction of a right for employees to request changes to their schedule or work location (Jan 1, 2019).
     
  • A requirement that employees be paid for three hours of work if their shift is cancelled within 48 hours of its scheduled start time (Jan 1, 2019).
     
  • An expansion of the length of parental leave to align with recently announced changes to federally regulated EI benefits (Dec 3, 2017).
     
  • The inclusion of expanded language to ensure that employers properly characterize service providers as employees vs. independent contractors (Nov 27, 2017).

In many cases, the university already provides benefits and salary that are the same or exceed those outlined in the changes to the Employment Standards Act. This means that these changes in legislation may not result in additional benefits or pay for employees in your area.

Parental Leave

The changes to the length of statutorily protected parental leave* will come into effect on December 3, 2017 to coincide with the effective date of changes to parental leave EI benefits announced by the Federal Government in the March 2017 budget.

Pursuant to the changes to parental leave EI benefits, eligible parents can choose between the Standard Parental Benefit and an Extended Parental Benefit. This decision once made, is irrevocable. The Standard Parental Benefit provides 35 weeks within a 12-month period at a rate of 55% of an eligible parent’s average weekly earnings, to a maximum of $543 per week. With the Extended Parental Benefit, parents receive up to 61 weeks of benefits over 18 months at 33% of average weekly earnings, to a maximum of $326 per week. Please note that the overall dollar value of the EI parental leave benefit provided remains the same, simply spread over a longer period in the extended option. The extended parental leave is only available for parents of babies who are born on or after December 3rd.

The total value of the top-up benefit provided by the university for parental leave will remain the same, and will not increase to offset a lower EI benefit triggered by the employee's choice to extend their EI benefits during an extended parental leave (for 61 or 63 weeks, depending on whether the employee also took pregnancy leave). The University intends to maintain the total dollar value of the top-up based on the EI entitlement they would receive if they had elected to receive EI benefits over the course of a standard parental leave. In other words, the total value of the top-up benefit during parental leave will remain tied to the EI benefit level that has been in place for the past 20 years (i.e. 55% of the employee's salary to a maximum amount).

*Please note that the amount of EI benefit payable to birth mothers during maternity leave is unaffected by this change to the EI parental leave benefit. Maternity EI Benefit continues to be payable at the rate of 55% of an eligible mother’s average weekly earnings, to a maximum of $543 per week for 17 weeks. The reduction to 33% of average weekly earnings, to a maximum of $326 per week only occurs during the extended parental leave portion of a birth mother’s total leave period (if she chooses to extend her leave). This means that only those employees, as outlined below, will notice a change to the top-up calculation, but not the total value of the benefit:

  1. Those employees who are not eligible for a supported maternity (not birth parent or do not meet eligibility criteria) and who choose to take an extended parental leave; and
     
  2. Those employees who have taken a combination of supported maternity leave and supported parental leave (top-up payments to do exceed 20 weeks) and who choose to take an extended parental leave.

Only a very small number of employees at the university will experience any modification because of the changes to EI benefits.

Please direct employees with questions regarding their eligibility for maternity and/or parental leave and/or top-up under the university’s existing policies to contact their Human Resources Advisor.

WSIB Policy on Chronic Mental Stress - Bill 127 – Stronger, Healthier Ontario Act

The expanded WSIB Policy will allow compensation for work-related Chronic Mental Stress, defined as mental stress caused by a substantial work-related stressor or series of stressors and includes as an example, mental stress that results from being subjected to workplace harassment or bullying. The WSIB Ontario website has a useful FAQ.

Managers are expected to consult the Return to Work (RTW) unit in circumstances where a doctor’s note has been presented by an employee, or requested by the department. As appropriate, RTW will work with the Employee and Labour Relations (ELR) unit, the manager, and the employee to determine if there are any workplace concerns that should be addressed.

Managers should be aware of their obligations under the Interim Workplace Harassment and Discrimination Policy and work with Human Resources and/or Faculty Relations to address workplace issues proactively to ensure that the University fulfills its commitment to providing a work environment in which all Employees are treated with dignity, and to fostering a climate of understanding and mutual respect for the value of each Employee.

 

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