Definition: Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
- Achieve higher levels of economic productivity through diversification, technological upgrading and innovation, including through a focus on high-value added and labour-intensive sectors
- By 2030, achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all women and men, including for young people and persons with disabilities, and equal pay for work of equal value
- By 2020, substantially reduce the proportion of youth not in employment, education or training
- Protect labour rights and promote safe and secure working environments for all workers, including migrant workers, in particular women migrants, and those in precarious employment
List of Policy Changes and Cuts:
- Introduced legislation to repeal Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act
- Reduced funding from Ontario office that prevents workplace deaths
- Reduced the number of employment standards officers who carry out inspections
- Changed conditions associated with overtime hours
- Changed the mandatory condition of having workers’ rights posters in workplaces
The focus of the policy and funding changes listed under this Sustainable Development Goal are employment and decent work, as working conditions and labour market policies are a significant factor in health disparities. The World Health Organization has stated that factors, such as higher income and increased control over one’s working conditions, have a significant impact on improving health.[i]
One of the biggest changes that took place in the last year was the repeal of the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, also known as Bill 148. The Making Ontario Open for Business Act, repealed many of the policies in Bill 148. One of the more noteworthy policy changes was the freezing of minimum wage at $14/hour instead of increasing it to $15/hour by January 1, 2019 as promised in Bill 148. This freeze will continue until 2020, at which point it will increase in line with inflation. The persistent backlash from the business community, as well as the fear that the initial and subsequent increase in minimum wage would result in closures of small businesses and increase in unemployment rate, motivated a freeze to the minimum wage at $14/hour.[ii] Six months after the minimum wage increase was introduced, Statistics Canada indicated a 5.4 per cent unemployment rate, which was the lowest since 2000.[iii]
Other noteworthy changes relate to personal days, scheduling changes, equal pay for equal work, and holiday pay. Previously, a total of ten personal emergency leave days were granted, with a minimum of two being paid days. The new legislation allows three unpaid sick days, three unpaid family responsibility days, and two unpaid bereavement days. Employees’ ability to refuse shifts if they were notified with limited notice has also been repealed. The repeal of Bill 148, which also prohibited pay differentials based on “difference in employment status,” effectively ends that provision.
Legislation has also been passed that gives employers the flexibility to average an employee’s overtime hours over the course of a month as opposed to paying them overtime based on the hours worked during an individual week. This may result in employees working the same number of hours in a single month but earning reduced income.
There has been a reduction of funding to an office that operates out of the Ministry of Labour tasked with preventing workplace injury, illness, and death. Further, the Ministry of Labour has planned to reduce the number of employment standards officers, who are tasked with investigating workplace abuses. It was found that 75 per cent of workplaces were in violation of employment standards, resulting in a commitment to hire more inspectors. However, this commitment has been reversed, despite inspections being proven effective in employer compliance and in ensuring that workers’ rights and safety are protected.[iv] It appears that policy changes and announcements over the last year have leaned towards decreasing employment protections and benefits.
[i] World Health Organization. Health Impact Assessment: The Social Determinants of Health. Retrieved June 20, 2019, from https://www.who.int/hia/evidence/doh/en/.
[ii] Bouw, B., and Giovannetti, J. (2018). Ontario eyes more wage hikes amid small-business backlash. The Globe and Mail. Retrieved June 26, 2019, from https://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/small-business/sb-managing/ontario-businesses-weigh-options-as-minimum-wage-increase-bumps-labour-costs/article37594693/.
[iii] Statistics Canada. (2018). Labour Force Survey, July 2018. Retrieved July 14, 2019, from https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/daily-quotidien/180810/dq180810a-eng.htm.
[iv] Mojtehedzadeh, S. (2018). Ministry of Labour puts hold on proactive workplace inspections, internal memo says. Toronto Star. Retrieved June, 22, 2019, from https://www.thestar.com/news/queenspark/2018/10/25/ministry-of-labour-puts-hold-on-proactive-workplace-inspections-internal-memo-says.html.