CANADA (ONTARIO): Annual Update – Expected labour law changes in 2016

Workplace safety

Increased Penalties for Workplace Safety and Insurance Act Offences: The maximum corporate fines for offences under the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act have increased from $100,000 to $500,000. In addition, it is now an offence to discourage a worker from reporting a workplace injury or illness to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board.
Action required:
(1) Continue to monitor compliance with the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act.
(2) Ensure no action is taken which could be perceived as either (a) discouraging workers from reporting an incident; or (b) inducing them to withdraw or abandon claims.


Improving disabled employees’ access to employment:
Comprehensive new legislation has been introduced, which focusses on improving disabled employees’ access to employment. By January 1, 2016, new training and communication requirements will be imposed on employers with fewer than 50 employees.
Employers with 50 or more employees will have to establish a number of internal practices that increase hiring accessibility, accommodation and career development. Individual accommodation and return-to-work plans should also be developed.
Action required:
(1) Fewer than 50 employees: train staff on accessibility laws; make it publicly known that the company will make written information and other forms of communication accessible upon request.
(2) 50 or more employees: ensure recruitment processes reflect the accessibility requirements. Create written individual accommodation plans and a return to work process, and tell staff about this process to support employees with disabilities.

Health and Safety

Joint Health and Safety Committee Standards: There are new standards for training Joint Health and Safety Committee (JHSC) members. They contain specific criteria that must be met for the approval of JHSC certification training programs and training providers. They replace older training standards that have been used by training providers since 1996.
Action required: Ensure all new members of Joint Health and Safety Committees, or members who have not already completed training, receive training pursuant to the new approved standards.


Harassment Investigation Obligations: The Ontario government has introduced changes to harassment laws that are going through the legislative process and will likely be in force by summer/fall 2016. They require employers to conduct harassment investigations into all complaints or incidents of harassment. The amendments also set out certain elements that must be included in harassment prevention programs. Ministry of Labour inspectors will be able to order employers to retain a third party investigator, at the employer’s expense, to conduct an investigation.
Action required:
(1) Ensure that all complaints / incidents of workplace harassment (including sexual harassment) are investigated in accordance with the new, expanded employer obligations.
(2) Confirm that the company harassment programs, policies and training are in compliance and amend as necessary.

Minimum wage

Minimum Wage: A new minimum wage rate will be announced on April 1, 2016, calculated based on the annual increase to Ontario’s Consumer Price Index.
Action required: Once announced employers will need to ensure existing and new employees are paid at least minimum wage.