Ontario to increase minimum wage to $15 an hour

Canadian province Ontario is to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2019.

The general minimum wage currently stands at $11.40 (£6.60) an hour and is scheduled to rise to $11.60 (£6.69) an hour in October 2017. The government intends to increase this to $14 (£8.08) an hour from 1 January 2018, and to $15 (£8.66) an hour from 1 January 2019. This will be followed by further annual increases that correspond to the rate of inflation.

Ontario has special minimum wage rates for alcohol servers, students under the age of 18, hunting and fishing guides, and homeworkers. These rates will rise by the same percentage as the general minimum wage.

The minimum wage increases would form part of the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act 2017, which is designed to improve employment standards in the province. The proposals also include amendments to Ontario’s Employment Standards Act and Labour Relations Act.

The proposed legislation will also ensure that casual, part-time, temporary, seasonal and temporary help agency employees are all paid equally compared to full-time employees when performing the same job role. This would be effective from 1 April 2018 if the legislation is passed.

Personal emergency leave will be expanded under the proposed legislation to apply to all organisations. Currently, this leave arrangement is only applicable in workplaces with 50 or more employees. Personal emergency leave would be extended to 10 days per year, including two paid personal emergency leave days. Reasons for taking this kind of leave would also be widened to include employees experiencing domestic or sexual violence or the threat of sexual or domestic violence. These changes would be effective from 1 January 2018.

The proposed legislation would also prevent employers from misclassifying employees as independent contractors. The onus would be on the employer to prove that an individual is not an employee in the event of a dispute. Organisations that misclassify employees could face penalties such as prosecution, fines, or public disclosure of a conviction.

The legislation would also simplify the formula for calculating holiday pay to ensure employees are entitled to their average regular, daily wage, extend family medical leave from eight weeks in a 26-week period to 27 weeks in a 52-week period, introduce up to 104 weeks’ leave for the death or crime-related disappearance of a child, and ensure staff are entitled to three weeks’ paid holiday after five years of service. If the legislation passes, these measures would be effective from 1 January 2018.

The proposed changes follow the Changing workplaces review report, a two-year independent review of the Employment Standards Act and Labour Relations Act.

Kathleen Wynne, premier of Ontario, said: “The economy has changed. Work has changed. It’s time our laws and protections for [employees] changed too. Too many families are struggling to get by on part-time or contract work and unstable employment. And no one working full time in Ontario should live in poverty. With these changes, every [employee] in Ontario will be treated fairly, paid a living wage and have the opportunities they deserve.”

Kevin Flynn, minister of labour, added: “These changes will ensure every hard-working Ontarian has the chance to reach their full potential and share in Ontario’s prosperity. Fairness and decency must be the defining values of our workplaces.”