Changes to the Employment Standards Act

 Three New “Family-Focused” Leaves In effect as of October 29, 2014:

The Employment Standards Act (ESA) has been amended to create three new job-protected leaves for workers in Ontario.  It is important that workers understand the purpose of the leaves and the requirements necessary to qualify to take each one.   Below is only a brief overview of each new leave followed by a link to the Ministry of Labour with more detailed information.  

Family Caregiver Leave

Up to eight weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave for employees to provide care or support to a family member with a serious medical condition.  This leave may be taken to provide care or support to family members “for whom a qualified health practitioner” has given a certificate confirming that there is a serious medical condition.  This is eight weeks per family member who qualify under the requirements.  A worker must provide written notice of the leave along with the medical documentation when requested by the employer. 
 
Family Medical Leave already exists under the law but is different.  This leave allows a worker to take a leave only if the family member who has a serious medical condition “has a significant risk of death occuring within a period of 26 weeks”. 

http://www.labour.gov.on.ca/english/es/pubs/guide/caregiver.php
 
Critically Ill Childcare Leave

Up to 37 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave for employees to provide care to a child (under 18 years old) who is critically ill.  Again, a “qualified health practitioner” must provide medical documentation that the child is critically ill and needs the support and care of a parent, foster or step-parent or legal guardian.  The practitioner must also specify the amount of time the child is expected to need care, which could be less than 37 weeks.  Only those workers who have been employed with their employer for at least six months are eligible to take the leave. 

http://www.labour.gov.on.ca/english/es/pubs/guide/childcare.php
 
Crime-Related Child Death or Disappearance Leave
Up to 52 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave for a crime-related disappearance of a child and up to 104 weeks for a crime-related death of a child.  The child can be a foster or step-child or under the legal guardianship of the employee.  The child must be under 18 years of age for the worker to qualify. 
 
To qualify, the worker must have been employed with their employer for at least six consecutive months.  In this instance, crime is defined as “any offence under Canada’s Criminal Code, with some exceptions”.   Employers do not have to pay wages when an employee is on a crime-related child death or disappearance leave.
 
Employees who take crime-related child death or disappearance leave are entitled to the same

rights as employees who take pregnancy or parental leave. For example, an employer cannot threaten, fire or penalize in any other way an employee for taking, planning on taking, being eligible or being in a position to become eligible to take a crime-related child death or disappearance leave.

http://www.labour.gov.on.ca/english/es/pubs/guide/disappear.php

For more information on each leave or any existing leaves under the Employment Standards Act, go directly to each link or to the general website at http://www.labour.gov.on.ca/english/

 Stronger Workplaces for a Stronger Economy Act, 2014
 
On November 20th, 2014 workers in Ontario saw new improvements to the Employment Standards Act, the law that covers them in the workplace.   For many years, workers have brought their experience and voices to the table to help shape and propose laws that promote fairness and decent wages and conditions, these changes are a result of those voices being heard.  It important to note that the changes will be implemented on different dates, we have outlined below both an overview of the change and the date when it will come into effect. 
 
Employer to Provide Workplace Rights Information

Starting on May 20th, 2015, employers will be required to give each worker a copy of the Employment Standards poster.  Within 30 days of being hired, a worker should receive this poster.  Currently, an employment standards poster (by the Ministry of Labour) must be posted by employers in the workplace where employees will likely see it. 
 
Minimum Wage Indexed to Inflation

No later than April 1st of each year, the Minister of Labour will announce the minimum wages that will apply starting October 1st of that year, beginning October 1st, 2015.  Each October 1st, the minimum wage now will be increased by the rate of inflation.  The rate of inflation will be determined by the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for the previous year.  If the CPI resulted in a decrease in the minimum wage, then no adjustment to the minimum wage will be made that year. 
 
Recovering Unpaid Wages

1)Removal of the $10,000 claim limit

Up until February 20th, 2015, the maximum amount of wages that can be recovered is $10,000, even if a worker is owed more than that.  There are some exceptions to this rule related to leaves of absence or the right not to be penalized for exercising rights under the ESA.  After February 20th, 2015, there will no longer be a maximum amount on unpaid wages that the Ministry can order an employer to pay a worker.  Important:  This is only for wages that become due to be paid on or after February 20, 2015.
 
Wages are generally “due” on the employee’s regular pay day or upon termination, wages should be paid within seven days or what would be the employee’s next regular pay day.

 

2)Longer Time Limit on Filing a Claim

Under the new rules for filing claims for unpaid wages, workers will have up to two years to file a claim from the date that the wages become due.  This two year limit comes into effect on February 20th, 2015.  Workers who have wages that came due after on or after February 20th, 2015 will have two years to file a claim to recover those wages.  For workers who have wages that came due before February 20th, 2015, they have 6 months to file a claim for those wages.  If a worker has unpaid vacation pay that became due before February 20th, 2015, they have one year to file a claim.    
 
3)Time Limits on Claim Period

Under the new rules workers will be able to claim wages that are due in the two years prior to the date that the claim was filed.  This is a big increase from the six month limit on wages recoverable under the old rules, or 12 months for vacation pay or repeat violations.  If wages became due before February 20th, 2015, then the six month/12 month limit on recovery applies.  This means that claims for unpaid wages that were due before February 20th, 2015 can only be for wages that were due within six months of the claim being filed.  This will be the case even if the claim is file after February 20th, 2015 – the issue is when the wages were due.  For example:  If a worker filed a claim on March 20th, 2015 for wages that were due February 1, 2015, then the claim can only include wages that were owed in the 6 month prior to March 20th, 2015. 
 
Starting on February 20th, 2015 the transition to the new two year claim period for unpaid wages will begin.  The period of time a worker can claim wages from the date the claim is filed will increase after February 20th, 2015 until the two year time limit is reached August 20, 2016. 
 
Example:  A claim filed on March 20, 2015 for wages that became due that day would be able to claim for seven months of unpaid wages (six months under the old rules and one month in transition to the new two year term).  
 
Temporary Agency Workers

Under the law, the agency is responsible for temporary workers, not the company where they work every day (the client company).  This can be confusing and problematic for workers when they face a violation at work, as it seems they have two “employers” to deal with.  Starting on November 20th, 2015 client companies will be jointly liable for any wages, overtime or public holiday pay that the temp agency fails to pay.  It is first the agency’s responsibility to pay, but if it doesn’t, workers can now seek pay from the client company.  Temp workers can file claims at the Ministry of Labour and the Ministry will enforce the workers right to those wages from both the agency and the client company.  Important:  The unpaid wages would have to become due to the worker after November 20th, 2015.
 
Employer’s Self-Audit

The Ministry of Labour is setting up an online self-audit program for employers.  The goal of this program is to help employers identify practices that may be in violation of the ESA and how to comply with the law.  The Ministry of Labour now has the power to require an employer to do a self-audit and report on the outcomes to the Ministry.  This new process does not prevent an

employment standards officer from doing an investigation or an inspection of the employer.  It does not stop enforcement under the Act.  The self audit provisions will come into effect May 20th, 2015.
 

Source from Workers' Action Centre

 

New financial eligibility for Legal Aid Ontario Services from November 1, 2014 to March 31, 2015

 Duty Counsel and Summary Legal Advice Services:

Duty counsel lawyers help low-income people who appear in court without a lawyer. Financial testing may be required to determine eligibility for some duty counsel services.

Duty Counsel eligibility threasholds: 

Number of family members in the household

Annual Income must be lower than

1

$19,080

2

$28,620

3

$32,860

4

$39,220

5 or more

$45,580

 

Certificate program

If you are eligible and face a serious legal matter, you can apply for a free legal aid certificate to retain a private practice lawyer for who accepts your case will get paid for providing you with full representation for a certain number of hours.

If you have an income or own property, you may qualify for a certificate with a contribution agreement. This means you will be required to repay LAO some or all of your legal fees.

Who can get a legal aid certificate?

To find out if you’re eligible for a certificate, your legal problem has to be one that is covered by LAO. You will also need to take a financial test to see if your gross income from all sources is within the range of this chart:

Number of family members in the house hold

Step 1: certificate eligibility threasholds: your family gross annual income is lower than

Step 2, Contribution Agreement threasholds: your family gross income is lower than

1

$11,448

$13,250

2

$19,805

$23,850

3

$22,577

$27,793

4

$25,511

$31,927

5+

$28,317

$35,998

Single boarders

$7,526

$8,692

For more information or apply for LAO, please contact LAO’s central toll-free telephone line, Mon. to Fri., 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., at 1-800-668-8258 (or 416-979-1446 in Toronto). In court, you can ask an LAO duty counsel directly.

Consumer protection

tips when signed an energy contract:

-        Make sure you know who you dealing with when you are approached by sign or renew a gas or electricity contract for your home, energy company sales staff are required to wear an ID badge and give you a business card, you should make sure you get a business card and check the person's ID badge first.  

-        Don't share personal information such as your gas or electricity bill unless you are sure you want to sign a contract

-        Read the contract carefully, all disclosure statement and price comparison provided by the person

-        Be careful if they claim they are from some government department, Remember, The Ontario Energy Board does not go door to door.

For energy contracts:

If you signed a contract in person, you may cancel within 10 days of signing, you won't be switched and there is no cancellation fee.    Within 10 to 45 days after signing, you will receive a call to verify that you want to continue with the contract.  If you do not verify the contract becomes invalid, you won't be switched and no cancellation fee.  If you cancel after that, cancellations fees may apply.    

For Electricity contracts:

You may also cancel the contract within 30 days of receiving your fist bill under the contract, you will not have to pay a cancellation fee and you will be switched back to your utility but you are responsible for paying that bill.