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Update: Bill 66 – Restoring Ontario’s Competitiveness Act, 2018

Bill 66, Restoring Ontario’s Competitiveness Act, 2018, was introduced in the Ontario legislature on Dec. 6, 2018, and has been carried on first reading. The bill seeks to make changes to a few different acts in an effort to “cut business costs, harmonize regulatory requirements and end duplication”, according to the province’s economic development minister, Todd Smith. The bill is part of a four-year plan intended to reduce business regulations by 25 per cent.

We wrote about this bill and its introduction in the Ontario legislature in our December blog. Businesses should be aware of, and prepare for the following key changes that have potential to impact their day to day operations, and from a Human Resources standpoint:

Proposed changes to the Labour Relations Act, 1995
• Deeming Non-Construction Employers: Bill 66 proposes to amend the LRA to deem municipalities and certain local boards, school boards, hospitals, colleges, universities, and public bodies to be non-construction employers. As a result, these entities would no longer be bound to construction industry collective agreements, and any existing agreements would be terminated.
• Amending the Bargaining Unit: Some of the entities affected by the proposed amendments regarding non-construction employers may currently have bargaining units that include construction and non-construction employees. These entities would be able to apply to the Ontario Labour Relations Board to have the composition of such bargaining units redefined.

What this would mean is that trade unions will no longer represent employees of several public-sector entities such as municipalities, school boards and public hospitals, as they will be deemed non-construction employers. The hope is that it results in increased competition in project bids, and lower costs for these employers

Proposed Changes to the Employment Standards Act, 2000
• Eliminating Requirement to Obtain Approval: Employers would no longer be required to seek the approval of the Director of Employment Standards in order to enter into overtime averaging agreements with their employees designed to average overtime over several weeks or to exceed 48 hours of work in a work week.
• Duration of Overtime Averaging Agreements: Under the current terms of the ESA, averaging agreements applicable to unionized employees cannot be valid for more than one year after they take effect. Under Bill 66, these agreements will continue to be effective until a subsequent collective agreement applicable to the employees comes into operation.

The bill would eliminate the need for Ontario employers to obtain approval from the government for excess weekly hours of work and overtime averaging agreements. Currently, for an employer to have employees work more than 48 hours weekly, an application for approval needs to be filed to the director of employment standards — an annual occurrence that can take weeks to be processed. If Bill 66 takes effect, an employer would simply need a written agreement with an employee.

• Existing Averaging Agreements: Bill 66 proposes that existing averaging agreements would be deemed to have met the requirements set out in the ESA, and would continue to be valid until the employer and employee agree to revoke it, the Director revokes it, or the Director’s approval expires.

For overtime averaging, employers would be able to sign written agreements with employees to average hours of work, including overtime, for periods of up to four weeks, without requiring government approval.

• Posting ESA Posters: Bill 66 proposes removal of the requirement that employers display a poster with employment standards information in the workplace, but rather provide a most recent copy of the poster to employees, at time of hire or upon request.

How should Business get ready for the changes?
To prepare for Bill 66, businesses should consider the following recommendations:
• Review workplace policies and employee agreements — depending on content — in terms of maximum hours of work and overtime payments. Some current Employee policies may mirror legislation and require revision.
• Businesses could look into potential strategic benefits in business operations, such as planning production cycles to take advantage of new overtime averaging agreements.
• Ensure that properly prepared employment agreements are in place with employees. These should clearly detail daily and weekly hours of work etc. as this will be key if hours of work usage increases.
• Ensure properly prepared and clearly documented overtime agreements are in place as needed with employees working overtime.
• A “robust” review process should be in place and employees should be made aware of the implications of these agreements prior to implementation.

If you’re a Beneplan client, please call or email us to get help with these or any other organizational HR issue that you may face. Also, dont forget the HR Toolkit section of your client login, for document resources.

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