The world of work has changed dramatically over the past few decades. More people are working part time. More people are self-employed and more people in different fields are considered “freelancers” than ever before. Government policy has been slow to catch up with these changes.
The government of Ontario made progress this month in adjusting its employment laws to better protect workers. The government released their long-awaited Changing Workplaces Review last week. It’s a comprehensive report on employment and labour laws that makes 173 recommendations for updates to workers’ rights.
This week, the Ontario government announced proposed legislation based on the recommendations. If passed, the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act would, among other things:
• Raise the minimum wage to $15 by 2019
• Improve rules around shift scheduling
• Ensure that casual, part-time, temporary and seasonal employees are paid the same as full-time employees doing the same job for the same employer
• Prohibit employers from misclassifying employees as “independent contractors” in order to skirt employment laws.
The new rules around misclassification may bring about positive changes for some precariously employed people in Ontario. One group that’s affected by misclassification is factual television workers — a group that the Canadian Media Guild has been working to organize for the past four years.
But even though Ontario is taking important steps, the proposed legislation falls short of offering much protection for freelancers and the self-employed. One of the recommendations in the Changing Workplaces Review urges the government look for ways to provide basic health benefits to all workers, including self-employed people. The Ontario government has not yet announced plans to address that recommendation.
There’s still much that can be done to improve working conditions for precariously employed workers in Ontario and beyond. But there are hopeful signs that change is in the air.
The Urban Worker Project has created a petition to urge the government to expand employment standards legislation to cover self-employed, freelance and contract workers so that they “can access better pay, benefits and protections.”
You can sign that petition right here.
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