Ontario Begins Consultations on Labour and Employment Reform


Ontario Begins Consultations on Labour and Employment Reform

Date: May 15, 2015

On May 14, 2015, the Ontario government formally commenced the "Changing Workplaces" consultations first announced in February. To facilitate this process, the government also published a guide outlining the scope of the consultations, the specific issues on which the government is soliciting feedback and instructions on how to participate. You can view the government’s announcement here, and can download the "Changing Workplaces Review Guide to Consultations" ("Guide") here

In this FTR Now, we will review key aspects of the consultations that will be of interest to employers, and explore how you can participate in the process.


The consultations focus on the changing nature of the workplace, the causes behind those changes, and whether the province’s two key labour and employment laws – the Labour Relations Act, 1995 ("LRA") and the Employment Standards Act, 2000 ("ESA") – are able to meet the challenges created by the changes.

The government has identified several key workplace-related issues that are its primary concern: non-standard working relationships, the expanding service sector, globalization and trade liberalization, technological change and workplace diversity. Nevertheless, the consultations are not limited to just these issues.


It is clear from the Guide and the Terms of Reference published in February that the scope of the review is very broad. As noted above, the government is seeking input on the LRA and the ESA and whether they are able to meet the challenges of a changing workplace.

But for three identified exclusions, all aspects of the LRA and ESA are open for review and comment. The three exclusions are:

  • the construction industry provisions of the LRA;
  • minimum wage; and
  • areas which are subject to other independent review processes – examples of which include the gender wage gap, some issues regarding migrant workers, compulsory interest arbitration and broader public sector bargaining structures.

Any other topic addressed (or that should be addressed) in the LRA and ESA appears to be on the table for review and discussion.


The Guide conveys information about particular issues of concern to the government, and provides a series of open-ended questions to generate further discussion about these issues. For example, Chapter 3 discusses the factors driving the changing workplace, and poses a series of open-ended questions to prompt feedback, which include:

  • "How has work changed for you?"
  • "What type of workplace changes do we need to both improve economic security for workers…and to succeed and prosper in the 21st century?"
  • "…are new models of work representation, including potentially other forms of union representation, needed beyond what is currently provided in the LRA?"

Some questions asked by the government focus on fundamental principles underlying work itself:

  • "What are the goals and values regarding work that should guide reform of employment and labour laws?"

Other questions focus more specifically on the two statutes under review. With respect to the ESA, the government is seeking input on a number of issues, including:

  • whether the ESA should more directly address the needs of part-time, casual and temporary workers;
  • what changes should be considered to support businesses in today’s economy;
  • whether personal emergency leave should be revised, with specific feedback sought for whether there should be "a number of job-protected sick days and personal emergency days for every employee"; and
  • whether the ESA’s scope of coverage should be changed, including a reconsideration of existing definitions and exemptions.

With respect to the LRA, the government is seeking input on a range of issues, including:

  • whether there should be changes to who is covered by the LRA;
  • what changes should be considered to how employees choose to be represented by a trade union;
  • whether the LRA should change to address labour disputes including protracted strikes and lockouts; and
  • whether there should be changes to the LRA’s unfair labour practice provisions and the powers of the Ontario Labour Relations Board to address them.


There are a number of ways that employers can participate in the consultations. The Guide provides contact information (email address, regular mail address, fax number) to which submissions can be made. The government will receive submissions until September 18, 2015.

In addition, public consultations will be held across the province in accordance with the following schedule:






Toronto Marriott Downtown
Eaton Centre Hotel

525 Bay St.

Tuesday June 16, 2015

9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.


Courtyard Ottawa Downtown

350 Dalhousie Street

Thursday June 18, 2015

9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.


Courtyard Toronto by Marriott

Mississauga/ Meadowvale

7015 Century Avenue

Wednesday June 24, 2015

9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.



1 Stone Rd. West

Thursday June 25, 2015

9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.


Holiday Inn

1855 Huron Church Road

Tuesday July 7, 2015

9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.


Venue TBD

Wednesday July 8, 2015

9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.


Venue TBD

Thursday July 23, 2015

9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.


Venue TBD

Thursday September 10, 2015

9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

Thunder Bay

Venue TBD

Wednesday September 16, 2015

9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.


Venue TBD

Friday September 18, 2015

9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

Information about participating in these public sessions can be found here.

In addition, it is our understanding that the special advisors may conduct targeted stakeholder meetings, and we would be pleased to assist clients to try to arrange such meetings.


Employers and employer associations are uniquely positioned to provide critical insight into the changing workplace and economic realities facing modern businesses and other organizations. Moreover, employers have experience in managing complex workplaces in the face of existing government rules and regulations, and can provide important feedback on what works, what does not work and how government regulation could be improved for all workplace parties.

We would encourage the employer community and representative employer associations to consider participating in this process. It can be expected that employee groups and trade unions will be participating, and it is imperative that the employer voice also be heard. Well-considered submissions, grounded in actual, fact-based experience with the ESA and LRA, will help to ensure that the special advisors give serious consideration to the needs of employers and will hopefully contribute to balanced recommendations being made to the government.

Given our firm’s extensive experience with the LRA and ESA, with public policy development and public policy advocacy, and with consultations of a similar nature, we would be pleased to assist you in developing a response that ensures your organization’s interests are represented. Please contact the author or your regular Hicks Morley lawyer for assistance.

The articles in this Client Update provide general information and should not be relied on as legal advice or opinion. This publication is copyrighted by Hicks Morley Hamilton Stewart Storie LLP and may not be photocopied or reproduced in any form, in whole or in part, without the express permission of Hicks Morley Hamilton Stewart Storie LLP. ©