Tuesday, May 23, 2017 the Ontario Government's Special Advisors released their final report in the Changing Workplaces Review, outlining 173 recommendations to the Employment Standards Act (ESA) and the Labour Relations Act (LRA). See below for the Ontario Chamber of Commerce's statement on the report and more information on how these recommendations could affect Ontario's business community.
STATEMENT FROM ONTARIO CHAMBER OF COMMERCE AND KEEP ONTARIO WORKING COALITION
For more than two years, the Ontario Chamber of Commerce and the Keep Ontario Working coalition have been productive partners in working with the government and Special Advisors to ensure that the employer voice is represented in this report. The Changing Workplaces Review has been based on academic and legal analyses, and now it is the responsibility of the Government of Ontario to decide which among these recommendations should be adopted.
The employer community reiterates our call that it is reasonable and appropriate that recommendations only be adopted following a comprehensive economic impact analysis. This analysis should have clear acceptability thresholds, and the reforms implemented should be limited to those that pass such thresholds or are being implemented with a commensurate economic offset measure, in order to help businesses transition into any regulatory changes.
An economic impact analysis is the only way that the Government of Ontario can protect jobs and workers against the unintended consequences that may come as a result of implementing these recommendations.
In the coming days, many will seek feedback on our perspective as it relates to the recommendations in the report, including the expansion of personal emergency leave and vacation time. While we would urge caution on those specific recommendations, it is fundamental that government understands the associated impact on our economy of those and all recommendations before deciding how to proceed. These standards come at a cost to employers, and consumers, and will impact our economic health and the ability of employers to create jobs. The Government of Ontario should not proceed to invoke changes until they can fully identify the scale of the impact.
Employers are acutely aware of what it takes to create good jobs and train the next generation of workers. That is why we are so concerned about potential unintended consequences. For example, many of our members have told us that they will be far less inclined to hire 15, 16 and 17-year-old workers if the student minimum wage is removed. Employers often see themselves as doing a public good in hiring young people who have no previous experience, often giving Ontario’s youth basic skills that enable them to grow into more productive members of our society. If all monetary incentive is removed from employers to ‘take a chance’ on a young person that has no previous work experience, they will be far less inclined to do so.
Removing certain sectoral exemptions will also be extremely challenging for certain industries, whose entire planning has been developed around these exemptions for generations. Another theme we have spoken to in great detail is the need for better education and enforcement around existing regulations before the layering in new regulations.
These are the types of issues that need to stand up to economic analyses and require broader research in order to protect against our concern that heavier regulation will cause lower labour force participation and higher unemployment, especially among the young. We are pleased that the Government has withheld comment at this time and hope that they will signal that the appropriate research will be conducted in advance of any legislation being introduced. Any and all of the costs associated with these recommendations would be compounded in a dramatic way by expanding the minimum wage. Given that changes to the minimum wage were explicitly left outside of the terms of this Review, we cannot help but wonder if the recommendations would have been different if the advisors would have been permitted to consider an increase to the minimum wage as an alternative to these recommendations. As employers, our members believe that increasing the minimum wage and fully implementing these recommendations would have the perverse effect of discouraging investment and eliminating jobs, thereby diminishing economic opportunities in Ontario.