The Ontario government has announced it will raise minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2019. Currently minimum hourly wage in Ontario is $11.40. The announcement has been widely applauded by poverty and employment action groups who say this will lift many Ontarian’s out of vulnerable financial situations. But it’s also been heavily criticized by small businesses who are calling this raise a “job killer.” Once implemented, a person working a 40-hour week at minimum wage in Ontario will earn $31,200 annually.
In its news release, the province says “Ontario is proposing the largest increase to the minimum wage in the province’s history, raising it to $15 per hour, as part of a plan to create better jobs and fair workplaces. This will give more than a quarter of employees in the province a pay increase and will help ensure that more workers are benefitting from Ontario’s economic growth.”
Wage increase to come in phases
To help the small business community prepare, the Ontario government is phasing in the increase over 18 months. This October, hourly minimum wage will go up to $11.60. On January 1, 2018, it will be bumped to $14. And by 2019, it will increase again to $15.
New legislation for workers
Minimum wage is not the only thing changing either. According to the government, the wage increase is only a part of a bigger effort to improve the lives of Ontarians working for low- and moderate-income.
In newly proposed legislation called “The Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act,” the Ontario government says it plans to protect workers in the most precarious job situations – meaning part-time, temporary, seasonal and contract work.
In addition to a wage increase, any worker who has been at a job longer than five years with the same employer will be entitled to three weeks of paid vacation time instead of two. Moreover, employers must give workers 10 emergency leave days, out of which two must be paid. The act also states employers cannot ask for a sick note when workers are away.
The new legislation stipulates that part-time workers be paid the same hourly wage as full-time workers if they are doing identical jobs. For shift workers, the employer will have to pay three hours in wages if they cancel an employee’s shift less than 48 hours in advance. Workers also have the right to refuse any shift offered with less than four days of notice without fear of repercussions. There are also new rules that will stop employers from misclassifying employees as independent contractors.
Under this new legislation, it will also be easier for more workers to unionize – more specifically, temporary workers, building-services workers, and home- and community-care workers.
To help Ontarians learn their rights and responsibilities under this new act, the government plans to hire 175 workers to lay out the plan. And while some employers have expressed wariness to the wage hike, the government will launch an education campaign for employees as well as business owners.