CANADA: Annual Update – Expected Labour Law Changes in 2017 (Federal and Ontario)

Employment insurance

Reduction in employment insurance waiting period:  The federal government will reduce the waiting period before claimants begin to receive employment insurance (“EI”) benefit payments from two weeks to one week. The total number of weeks of EI benefits payable will not change; claimants will simply be able to start receiving EI payments one week earlier than they do under the current rules. The shorter waiting period will apply to all types of EI benefits, including maternity, parental and sickness benefits.

Effective date: January 1, 2017

Action required: Employers should review their short term disability and sick leave plans to assess the impact of the shortened EI waiting period and determine whether changes are needed in order to administer their plans.


Compliance with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act:  Comprehensive workplace accessibility legislation was introduced several years ago and its requirements are being progressively implemented. Key changes coming into force for 2017 include the requirement for all business and non-profits, regardless of size, to ensure that public information is made accessible when asked and that employment practices (including as regards to hiring and talent management) are accessible.

Effective date: January 1, 2017

Action required: Employers should review their internal practices and procedures and make changes as needed to ensure compliance with accessibility legislation.

Workplace review

Potential for significant reform of Ontario’s employment and labour law regime:  In July 2016, the Ontario Ministry of Labour released its Changing Workplaces Review interim report, which emphasized the need for legislative reform to protect “vulnerable workers in precarious jobs”. Among a myriad of proposals, the report considered reducing the scope of occupational exemptions from the Employment Standards Act, 2000, changing certification rules to encourage union certification, and providing “just cause” protection for terminated employees.

Should legislative changes result from this report, it could lead to a profound upheaval for Ontario employers.

Action required: None at present; however, Ontario employers should be alert to any further developments following this report as the implications of future reform could be significant.