Ontario Bill 68, The Open for Business Act, 2010 was tabled in Legislature on May 17, 2010. The aim of the Bill is to create a more competitive business climate in the province, while protecting the environment and public interest. Among the over 100 proposed amendments to various pieces of legislation, broadly stated, the upcoming changes would:
- Establish a modern, risk-based approach to environmental approvals, which could save businesses as much as 25 percent of their project application costs
- Enable faster and more efficient resolution of employment standards claims by addressing the current backlog, providing more powers to employment standards officers and encouraging early resolution of disputes between employees and employers
- Make it easier for professionals, such as internationally trained engineers, to work in Ontario by removing the citizenship requirements for a Professional Engineer Licence
Of particular interest to employment lawyers and employers, the employment standards program will be modernized to:
- Eliminate the backlog of 14,000 employment standards claims within two years by launching a task force in August 2010
- Implement changes to prevent future backlogs
- Allow employment standards officers to attempt to settle complaints that they have been assigned to investigate
- Allow labour relations officers and Ministry of Labour employees who report to the Director of Dispute Resolution Services to attempt to settle complaints that have been assigned for investigation; this section applies for a two-year period commencing on the day the section comes into force
- Introduce new online education tools such as the severance decision tool released recently
These measures will make the employment standards system more efficient and less expensive and time-consuming for businesses by providing earlier notice of alleged employee claims and increasing opportunities for parties to seek settlements. In a press release, the Human Resources Professionals Association (HRPA) stated that it has been working with the Ministry of Labour on these new online interactive tools to help employers and employees better understand Ontario’s employment standards.
This is a significant step to enhance the efficiency and competitiveness of employers in the province,” said Bill Greenhalgh, CEO of the HRPA. “Our members and their employers have long called for the government to provide these kinds of education tools that will make it easier for employers to comply with the Employment Standards Act. Education is the key to ensuring compliance which in turn will keep businesses in Ontario competitive in this global economy”.
However, this Bill has come under criticism recently in the media because of the changes it would make to the complaint and enforcement process in the Employment Standards Act. Bill 68 would implement the British Columbia self-help model for initiating complaints under the Act. The process is intended to allow employees and employers to solve many employment-related problems without government intervention.