Important Changes to Ontario’s Driving and Employment Laws

The new year brings with it exciting changes and new laws. Here are two changes to the law that you should be aware of as you ring in 2019.

Changes to the Employment Standards Act

On November 21, 2018, Bill 47, the Making Ontario Open for Business Act came in to force. Bill 47 repeals a large portion of Bill 148, the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, which was passed into law by the previous provincial government in 2017. Below are some of the changes established by the new legislation that both employers and employees should know about.

Personal emergency leave will be removed from the Act in its entirety and replaced by three separate unpaid leaves: sick leave (3 days), family responsibility leave (3 days), and bereavement leave (2 days). Employers will now be able to request medical documentation to support entitlement to these leaves, which was previously prohibited.

Instead of increasing the minimum wage to $15.00 per hour on January 1, 2019, the minimum wage will remain at $14.00 per hour until at least October 2020, when it will be adjusted for inflation.

In addition, many of the scheduling changes introduced by the previous government, which were scheduled to come into effect on January 1, 2019, have been repealed by the changes to the Act, including:

(a) the requirement for employers to respond to an employee’s request for changes to their schedule or work location;
(b) an employee’s right to refuse a request to work or be on call with less than 96-hours’ notice;
(c) the on-call pay provisions; and,
(d) the shift cancellation pay provisions.

However, under Bill 47 employers will still be required to pay employees who regularly work more than three hours for a minimum of three hours of work if they attend a shift, even if they are sent home after less than three hours.

New Distracted and Impaired Driving Laws 

On December 12, 2017, Ontario passed Bill 174, Cannabis, Smoke-Free Ontario and Road Safety Statute Law Amendment Act, 2017 which regulates the sale of recreational marijuana in the province, following its legalization across Canada. As a part of the Act, the government implemented changes to strengthen the existing road safety laws. Some of these changes came in to effect on January 1, 2019, and address penalties for both impaired and distracted driving.

As of January 1, 2019, increased administrative monetary penalties will apply for all alcohol and drug-impaired drivers, which ensure that these drivers pay a penalty and a licence reinstatement fee.

Escalating penalties will apply along with a $198 license reinstatement fee for short-term licence suspensions (3, 7, or 30 days):

(a) $250 for a first occurrence;
(b) $350 for a second occurrence; and
(c) $450 for a third occurrence.

A $550 penalty will apply along with a $198 license reinstatement fee for long-term licence suspensions (90 days).

The Government of Ontario has also posted a list of activities that count as distracted driving, including simply holding an electronic device in one’s hand to eating while behind the wheel.

Drivers who are caught using electronic devices, texting, dialling or emailing using a hand-held device will be fined up to $1,000 with a three-day licence suspension and three demerit points.

Drivers with more than one distracted driving conviction will face a fine of up to $2,000, a seven-day licence suspension and six demerit points, while motorists who have been caught driving distracted more than two times will pay a fine of up to $3,000 and lose their license for 30 days.

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