2014 is shaping up to be the year of the minimum wage increase across Canada. As we reported back in May 2014, the general minimum wage in Ontario was raised from $10.25 per hour to $11.00 per hour as of June 1, 2014. Earlier this week on September 1, 2014, Alberta also raised its general minimum wage from $9.95 per hour to $10.20 per hour, which means that every jurisdiction in Canada has now passed the $10.00 general minimum wage barrier.
In the meantime, 7 other provinces and territories have either increased, or will shortly be increasing, their general minimum wage rate. A list of the new rates and the effective dates is set out below:
Jurisdiction Old rate New rate Effective date
- Nova Scotia: $10.30 $10.40 April 1 2014
- Yukon $10.54 $10.72 April 1 2014
- Quebec $10.15 $10.35 May 1 2014
- Ontario $10.25 $11.00 June 1 2014
- Alberta $9.95 $10.20 September 1 2014
- Manitoba $10.45 $10.70 October 1 2014
- NFLD $10.00 $10.25 October 1 2014
- PEI $10.20 $10.35 October 1 2014
- Saskatchewan $10.00 $10.20 October 1 2014
The 3 provinces and territories that have not indicated an intention to change their general minimum wage rate are the following:
- BC $10.25 May 1, 2012
- NWT $10.00 April 1, 2011
- Nunavut $11.00 January 1, 2011
It appears that the next trend in the area of minimum wage rates is the indexing of those rate to changes in the Consumer Price Index. Currently, Nova Scotia and Yukon both adjust their general minimum wage rate annually on April 1 to match the increase (if any) in the Consumer Price Index. Ontario is currently considering legislation (which has not yet passed) that would implement a similar process in Ontario with indexing to begin on October 1, 2015.
The Ontario Government has re-introduced this Bill. It was carried after first reading on July 16, 2014. The Bill seeks to amend several pieces of legislation all with the alleged purpose of helping the economy. A number of different pieces of employment and labour related legislation are affected.
Here are the main proposed changes:
- The Employment Protection for Foreign Nationals Act is amended in name and in scope to apply not just to ‘live in caregivers and others’, but to all temporary foreign workers in Ontario, people who employ them or recruit them, or who act on behalf of an employer or recruiter.
- The Act seeks to protect all foreign nationals who are temporarily employed in Ontario from:
- Charges for services or costs incurred by an employer or recruiter unless they are prescribed in the Regulations;
- Property, passport or work permit retention by an employer or recruiter;
- Any reprisals for exercising a right under the Act or the Employment Standards Act, 2000;
- Establishes a reverse onus in any such case; and
- Mandates the Director to prepare and publish information to be given by an employer or recruiter to any such temporary foreign worker, or person seeking to become one.
- The Employment Standards Act, 2000 is amended by requiring an employer to provide a copy of the now mandatory poster prepared by the Director to every employee. Currently there is only a requirement to post it conspicuously. In addition it:
- Sets new requirements for minimum wages commencing October 1, 2015 indexed by the CPI with a five year review process;
- Requires both temporary help agencies and their clients to record and keep an hourly work record for every employee for three years and makes both the agency and the client liable for any unpaid wages;
- Provides for an Employment Standards Officer to require an employer to conduct a self-audit and makes it an offence to knowingly provide a false report;
- Removes the $10,000 limit per employee on recovery under the Act (once the section is proclaimed); and
- Increases the period of time that an employee may claim wages from six months before the complaint to two years before the complaint.
- The open period in construction collective agreements under the Labour Relations Act is changed from the last three months of the agreement (or every year of operation commencing in the third year of operation) to an open period reduced to two months.
- Changes the definition of ‘worker’ in both the Occupational Health and Safety Act and the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, 1997 to include unpaid students and other unpaid prescribed individuals (‘interns’)
The changes to the monetary limit on recovery and the period of recovery in the ESA are subject to phase in. Nevertheless, this will, in the future, provide a fast and probably cheap way for employees to claim everything due under the ESA and Regulations that they would be able to claim in a normal court action. This could, once the transition periods have passed, greatly increase the number of matters where relief is sought under the ESA as opposed to a law suit. Currently, once a complaint is commenced under the ESA for unpaid wages, including severance and/or termination pay, an action in the courts is blocked. Employees with longer than five years’ service will very often be owed substantially more than $10,000 under the Act, but currently would be limited to that recovery limit if they use the complaint procedures under the Act as opposed to a law suit.
The change to the open period in construction collective agreements is probably an attempt to reduce the tremendous amount of time and effort involved with the almost constant ‘raids’ in the construction industry, especially every three years in the ICI and GTA residential sectors. In the past few years, these raids have taken up more and more time and resources of the OLRB (not to mention the employers) to resolve. It is not clear to this author that these changes will have the desired effect.
The new provisions dealing with temporary workers are probably a reaction to the recent adverse publicity concerning how some of these workers have been taken advantage of by their employers and recruiters.
The Bill is only at first reading and some of these amendments may not survive.
We will keep you apprised.
Regardless of what happens with the upcoming provincial election, one thing is for certain come this June; the minimum wage in Ontario will rise as of June 1st. Employers should therefore make sure they are familiar with the various rate changes described below.
The general minimum wage rate applies to most employees. The current rate is $10.25 per hour and it will rise to $11.00 per hour.
The student minimum wage applies to students under the age of 18 who work 28 hours a week or less when school is in session, or work during a school break or summer holidays. The current rate is $9.60 per hour and it will rise to $10.30 per hour.
The liquor servers minimum wage is lower and reflective of the additional income earned through tips in that industry. It applies to employees who serve liquor directly to customers or guests in licensed premises as a regular part of their work. “Licensed premises” are businesses for which a license or permit has been issued under the Liquor Licence Act. The current rate is $8.90 per hour and it will rise to $9.55 per hour.
The homeworkers minimum wage applies to employees who do paid work in their own homes. The work performed by individuals as homeworkers can be extremely varied. The Ministry of Labour provides the following examples: sewing clothes for a clothing manufacturer, answering telephone calls for a call centre, or writing software for a high-tech company. The current rate $11.28 per hour and it will rise to $12.10 per hour.
Finally, there is a special rate for hunting and fishing guides, which is based on blocks of time rather than an hourly rate. Individuals employed in these jobs get a minimum amount for working less than five consecutive hours in a day, and a different amount for working five hours or more in a day. The current rates are $51.25 for less than five consecutive hours, and $102.50 for working five or more hours, regardless of whether the hours are consecutive. These rates will rise to $55.00 and $110.00 respectively.