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Terms of Reference - Changing Workplaces Review

Over the past several decades, workplaces and the nature of work itself, have changed considerably. Trends affecting these changes include:

  • The rising prominence of the service sector.
  • An increase in non-standard employment relationships, some of which put workers in more precarious situations.
  • Globalization and trade liberalization which, among other things, put pressure on employers to reduce costs, boost productivity and be innovative.
  • Accelerating technological change which poses new challenges and risks.
  • Greater workforce diversity.

As a result of these changes, many workers have found the opportunity for increased flexibility in their work, but, at the same time far too many workers are experiencing greater precariousness. In addition, business and employers have new opportunities to enhance competitiveness, but may find that the regulatory framework that was designed for a different time is now cumbersome.

Ontario is committed to responding to the changing workplace landscape in a manner that allows us to capture the opportunity that change can provide.

Ontario is committed to an economy that benefits all Ontarians, because the economy is not an end in itself – but a means to enhancing opportunity and security for all.

The Changing Workplaces Review will build on the central principles of Ontario’s legislative framework, but update the approach if needed to reflect the realities of Ontario’s current economy. The objective of this review is to improve security and opportunity for those made vulnerable by the structural economic pressures and changes being experienced by Ontarians in 2015.


The Labour Relations Act, 1995 (LRA) and the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA), are two key pieces of legislation governing employment relationships in Ontario.

The LRA is the primary statute regulating various aspects of labour relations for most workplaces (e.g., the collective bargaining process, certification and decertification of unions, etc.). The LRA has undergone major reforms (in addition to periodic amendments to various sections of the Act), including changes introduced in 1975, 1993, 1995 and 2005. However, some of the key features of this legislative framework have been in place since its introduction in 1950.

The ESA provides minimum standards for fair workplace practices in Ontario, setting out the rights and responsibilities of employees and employers (e.g., minimum wage, hours of work, job-protected leaves, etc.). The ESA underwent a comprehensive review in 2000-2001, resulting in the current Employment Standards Act, 2000. Some of the key changes to the Act included new rules for hours of work and personal emergency leave. Since then, reform over the past decade has been characterized by frequent, incremental changes, generally seen as expanding employee protections.


The government has committed to engage with Ontarians with respect to the changing workplace. The 2014 Speech from the Throne included this commitment:

A changing economy means a changing workplace. Your government will engage with Ontarians to consider what it can do in the context of our labour and employment law regime to continue to protect workers while supporting business in today's modern economy.

In the Ministry of Labour’s 2014 Mandate Letter, the Premier has charged the Minister with:

  • Engaging openly with Ontarians to consider actions that will support labour and employment law reforms. Your goal is to continue to protect workers while supporting business in today’s evolving economy.
  • Leading a review of Ontario’s system of employment and labour standards. You will work with other ministers to consider reforms that reflect the realities of the modern economy, such as the rise of non-standard employment and the reduction in the prevalence of employer benefits and training.

The Changing Workplaces Review will be the first step towards identifying potential labour and employment law reforms.

Mandate and Scope of Review

The Changing Workplaces Review will consider the broader issues affecting the workplace and assess how the current labour and employment law framework addresses these trends and issues with a focus on the LRA and the ESA. In particular, the Special Advisors will seek to determine what changes, if any, should be made to the legislation in light of the changing nature of the workforce, the workplace, and the economy itself, particularly in light of relevant trends and factors operating on our society, including, globalization, trade liberalization, technological change, the growth of the service sector, and changes in the prevalence and characteristics of standard employment relationships.

The consultations will not consider:

  • the construction industry provisions of the LRA;
  • the minimum wage; and
  • policy discussions for which other independent processes have been initiated.

Consultations will be led by two Special Advisors. The Special Advisors are expected to consider matters in a balanced and neutral manner, bringing both labour and employer perspectives to the consultation process.

Key Roles and Responsibilities

1. Special Advisors

The Special Advisors will provide input into the engagement process, including what advisory supports are needed. They will also work together to lead public engagement with Ontarians and report back to the Minister of Labour by March 28, 2017, with their report and recommendations on whether and what legislative changes may be needed to reflect the changing workplace. Public engagement is expected to commence within two months of their appointment.

2. Ministry of Labour

The Ministry of Labour will support the Special Advisors throughout the process by providing secretariat support to assist in coordinating consultations and meetings (internal/external), providing research support and facilitating any administrative and technical support needs, where appropriate.


The Special Advisors will examine academic and inter-jurisdictional research, and solicit feedback from stakeholders and the public, including conducting public consultations. The Special Advisors are encouraged to consider other innovative forms of engagement.

The Special Advisors will hold regional public engagement sessions to gather input from Ontarians. Based on the research and feedback from stakeholders and the public, the Special Advisors will report back to the Minister of Labour within 12 months of their appointment with a preliminary report and by March 28, 2017 with a final written report.

The Minister may consider an amendment to the scope of the work of the Special Advisors during the course of the mandate based on feedback received and at the request of the Special Advisors.

Following the Changing Workplaces Review, the Ministry of Labour will consider what changes may be needed to ensure that Ontario’s labour relations and employment standards regime continues to protect workers and support business.

Additional Mandate: Personal Emergency Leave

As set out in the 2015 Fall Economic Statement, the Special Advisors will resolve concerns raised by the business community regarding the application of Personal Emergency Leave under the ESA.

The Special Advisors will prioritize this issue and provide their advice to government to be implemented in 2016.

Ethics, Governance and Accountability

The Special Advisors are accountable to the Minister of Labour. The Special Advisors will report to the Minister of Labour on such matters and at such times as the Minister may request.

The Deputy Minister of Labour or his/her designate are responsible for approving all expense claims subject to Ontario Public Service guidelines.

The Special Advisors will comply with the Government of Ontario’s directives and principles with respect to ethics and accountability. It is the responsibility of the Special Advisors to identify any actual or potential conflicts of interest that may arise during the term of their appointment. The Special Advisors will keep their work on the Changing Workplaces Review separate and independent from any other work they may be undertaking. If a conflict of interest arises, the Ministry of Labour will consult Ontario’s Office of the Integrity Commissioner for advice and ensure that a memorandum of understanding or other necessary parameters are put in place to address the conflict.