Ontario is about to equalize the legal status of seasonal, part-time and temporary workers with full time employees, pursuing a policy that all workers deserve fair treatment regardless of the mode of their engagement. This radical departure from the traditional labour model will be enacted through Bill 148, which is about to come into force on April 1st this year as a part of the huge overhaul of the province’s labour regulations. As the date gets closer, national debate about the possible impact of the bill on human resource management is intensifying, with a lot of questions yet to be answered decisively.
On its face, Bill 148 is a bold attempt to create a fair and non-discriminating environment for the entire workforce. Lawmakers in Ontario are trying to address the growing imbalance that results from the changes in the modern economy. It’s a fact that more people than ever are earning their bread without full employment, and in many instances they could be performing important functions without enjoying much security. In many instances, companies got used to managing costs by directing jobs towards part-time contractors and enactment of the new bill will likely put this practice to rest.
Under the provisions of the bill, all workers performing the same kind of work will have to be compensated according to the same rules, no matter for how long they are contracted. Employers won’t be able to discriminate based on full-time or part-time status, although they will be allowed to adhere to fair and transparent merit and seniority systems when determining the size of paychecks. Temporary workers will have the right to ask for a raise if they believe they are being shortchanged, necessitating a written explanation from the employer in case the request is denied.
Employers are now facing a mandate to comply the proscribed requirements, and they won’t be able to slash existing salaries of full-time employees to balance the additional payments to part-time hires. They will be under some pressure during the early stages of the new regime, as the public will be vigilantly watching for any offenders. The government will increase the number of employment standards officers by nearly 200 to enforce the bill and prevent businesses from circumventing it. Since equal-pay provision is just a part of the wider labour reform, the effects on the economy of Ontario (and eventually all other provinces) is very difficult to predict.
Faced with rising workforce costs, Ontario businesses will have to put an emphasis on rational use of available human resources. Task scheduling practices will need to be improved, with the objective to eliminate wasted time and minimize redundanc8, thus offsetting the financial shock up to a degree. Time-tracking software will become even more essential, since productivity will be accepted as a legitimate measuring stick for higher pay. Failure to adapt could prove to be very costly, so businesses will have additional motivation to experiment with innovative business models in the near future.