This morning, the Law Commission of Ontario released draft recommendations on how to reform the Employment Standards Act and the Occupational Health and Safety Act, in its interim report on Vulnerable Workers and Precarious Work.
The report provides a valuable overview of precarious work in Ontario, including that 22 percent, or more than 1 in 5 Ontario workers, are precariously employed. It identified food services and accommodation as the sector with the highest share of precarious employment, and noted that racialized and immigrant women are overrepresented in this sector.
A BMJ article this month reported on a longitudinal study on the impact of insecure work on health. While that study’s 2006 results found that that poor quality jobs can be as bad for health as unemployment, by 2011 results showed that moving from unemployment to good jobs improved health while moving from unemployment to poor quality jobs can actually have a negative impact.
The Law Commission’s report describes multiple pathways in which precarious work is harmful to our health: including risk of injury and illness, low income, and job insecurity and stress. The Wellesley Institute explored the literature on these pathways in 2010.
The impact of precarious work on health and on Canada’s rising income inequality show how important it is for policy makers to turn their attention to labour markets. Modernizing the Employment Standards Act and improving its enforcement is an important way to reduce both health and income inequalities.
The Wellesley Institute will be responding to the Commission’s recommendations on reforming labour laws. The Law Commission is accepting feedback on their recommendations until October 1.