Don’t get caught out by pay hikes under new law

Ontario’s employment reforms will change more than just the minimum wage, but the issue’s been overlooked – until now

Don’t get caught out by pay hikes under new law
As businesses brace for Ontario's minimum wage rise, another pay change has largely fallen by the wayside – and it could affect thousands of businesses.

Under the suite of proposed changes, employers will have to ensure they pay part-time, casual, temporary and seasonal workers equal hourly wages to their full-time staff.

Miller Thomson employment lawyer Elliot Saccucci says that will spell “pretty broad implications” for many companies.

For businesses with seasonal spikes in demand, the dilemma is most obvious, though other employers won't be spared, either.

“Having to pay seasonal or temporary workers an equal wage as their existing fulltime employees drastically reduces the utility of being able to bring in these types of workers, and drives up the cost,” he says.

“That is going to be a major concern for employers that are subject to those seasonal peaks in demand.”

HR professionals, tasked with hiring and arranging pay for those workers, will be confronted with a stark choice about who to hire, with potentially limited options in future.

However, Saccucci adds, there are a few exceptions to the proposed law.

“To the extent that you're going to pay a temporary worker or a part-time worker differently to a full-time worker, [the reason] has to be demonstrable.

“There has to be some clear seniority, meritorious reason, quantity of production reason for the difference, otherwise you need to be certain that you're paying them the same.”

While scheduling and building up inventory might be workable solutions for some affected employers, HR professionals will need to take a closer look at their existing contracts and pay rates to ensure they're following the law.

Behind the law change, Saccucci says, “is an impetus on diminishing the attractiveness of using what the government seems to think are vulnerable workers – be they temporary seasonal or temp-type agency workers, by making them subject to the same rates of pay”.

“They're trying to drive down that appeal of using those.”

Related stories:
Why a higher minimum wage could be bad for workers
Ontario employers “appalled” by minimum wage

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