Workers Health & Safety Centre

Ontario reviews employment laws in face of changing workplaces

Precarious worker
Public hearings began in Toronto today as the province reviews its employment laws, an opportunity say many to improve working conditions, especially for those in precarious work.

Changing workplace review

This spring, Ontario’s Ministry of Labour launched its Changing Workplace Review. The review, says the government, will evaluate how labour and employment laws, specifically the Employment Standards Act and the Labour Relations Act, require change to keep pace with and reflect the needs of today’s workplaces. Two special advisors are leading the consultation—C. Michael Mitchell, a founding partner of Sack Goldblatt Mitchell LLP, and the Honourable John C. Murray, a former justice of the Ontario Superior Court.
The consultation will examine workplace trends including: increase in non-standard working relationships (eg. temporary jobs, involuntary part-time work, and self-employment); rising prominence of the service sector; globalization and trade liberalization; accelerating technological change and greater workplace diversity.
The review process provides opportunities for input through written submissions, participation in regional consultations or participation through targeted stakeholder meetings. 

Precarious work

Economic recession, global competition, outsourcing, and new technologies have changed the nature of work and employment relationships. More work is precarious—part-time, insecure, poorly paid with few, if any, benefits. The Law Commission of Ontario's Report on Vulnerable Workers and Precarious Work finds that job insecurity, holding multiple jobs, working long and/or irregular hours and working on call, can make it difficult for workers to exercise basic employment and health and safety rights. In response, the Commission recommended among other things proactive Occupational Health & Safety Act enforcement inspections to target industries employing vulnerable workers, including temporary foreign workers, and to also ensure joint health and safety committees and representatives are in place and effective. 

Workers at risk

The incidence of precarious work is on the rise. The Poverty & Employment Precarity in Southern Ontario (PEPSO) research group, a joint university-community initiative, used Statistics Canada data and surveys of workers from the Greater Toronto and Hamilton area to examine the prevalence of precarious and stable employment. They report precarious employment has risen by almost 50 per cent in the last 20 years, no longer limited to dead-end minimum wage jobs. Workers in knowledge, service and manufacturing sectors are equally likely to report precarious working relationships.
Their research also finds: 
  • Some 44 per cent of working adults have jobs with some level of precarity
  • Newcomers to Canada are more likely to be in precarious work
  • Nearly one in four said reporting a health and safety or other employment concern would threaten their employment.
  • Workers in precarious jobs are twice as likely to report poorer mental health than those in secure jobs. 

Participation and training

Not surprisingly, most precarious workers are less likely to be represented by a union. They are also less likely to receive training provided by the employer. This has serious implications for workers’ ability to exercise any and all of their legal rights. A recent study by the Trades and Union Congress reports that nearly four in ten unionized workers received job-related training compared to just over two in ten non-union workers. The beneficial ‘union effect’ was even more pronounced after the last recession.
Changing Workplace Review public consultations end with a second session in Toronto on September 18. To arrange a presentation at a public consultation session contact or telephone: 1-888-868-5844.
Written comments are welcome throughout the consultation and will be accepted until September 18, 2015.
Send comments to the MOL by:
Fax:        416-326-7650
Mail:     Changing Workplaces Review
Employment Labour and Corporate Policy Branch
Ministry of Labour
400 University Ave., 12th Floor
Toronto, ON M7A 1T7

Other related resources:
Precarious Employment and the Internal Responsibility System
Health impact of commuting among new immigrants in precarious jobs | Institute for Work & Health
Precarious employment may affect worker health
The Workers Health & Safety Centre offers a full range of health and safety training including programs for joint health and safety committee members and worker representatives in small workplaces. Also, check out WHSC resources for health and safety representatives.
To learn more:
Email: or
Call:    1-888-869-7950 and ask to speak to a training services representative