Happy New Year! In case you missed it over the holidays, Ontario has enacted some new legislation for 2022: New laws and changes coming to Ontario in 2022 | CTV News. Some of these changes directly impact work relationships, so whether you are an employer, an employee or both, here’s a summary of 3 pieces of legislation that may impact you and your workplace:
Non-Compete Rules Banned
In the past, many employee/employer relationships−especially with professionals−were spelled out in extensive Employment Contracts. These legal contracts often stipulated that an employee could not work for a competitor or in the same industry for a certain duration of time post-employment.
These contracts were designed to protect employers from employees quitting to work for a competitor, often taking valuable IP, working knowledge of the former employer and contacts with him/her. Over time, these non-compete contracts were expended to employees who were “let go” as a result of a downsizing or restructuring as well as individual issues such as poor performance, a new boss or lack of fit.
The impact of these “handcuffs” whether golden or brass was sometimes mitigated by severance to cover the non-compete period. In other words, you couldn’t work for anyone else in your field, but you would continue to get paid by your previous employer. While a lump sum payment usually covered a limited duration of benefits, salary continuation usually included benefits for the entire period. The downside was often a stipulated “claw-back” or cessation of payment if you found equivalent employment during the severance period.
All that changes as of January 1. Part of the “Working for Workers Act” includes the elimination of non-compete clauses in Ontario, the first jurisdiction in Canada (and one of the first in North America) to ban non-compete agreements in employment. The full impact of this legislation is unclear and raises a number of questions:
- Does the legislation apply only to new employee contracts, or will it be retroactive for existing contracts?
- Will companies seek to reduce severance amounts with the rationale that it is no longer needed since employees are free to seek reemployment immediately?
- How will this legislation impact other “non” areas, such as non-disclosure and non-solicitation?
I’ll pose these questions to our Employment Law expert and get back to you. In the meantime, make sure that you consult an Employment Lawyer before signing an employment contract on the way in and seek advice on your rights and responsibilities on the way out.
Work-Life Balance Rules
Work-Life balance has long been an issue for workers at all levels. The world in general as well as the world of e-work has steadily increased the degree of “perceived availability” of employees on the part of employers. One of the major impacts of the pandemic has been an unprecedented increase in the number of people working from home.
Many of our clients have reported that they are being contacted at all hours (and on weekends) with the expectation that they are always “on duty.” To be fair, many managers have reported that they have had difficulty getting their people to unplug. Whether the pressure is external or internal, the result has been increased stress and burnout−particularly among workers with multiple responsibilities such as caring for young children and/or educating school aged kids.
In response, the Ontario government passed new laws late last year designed to help employees disconnect from the office and create a better work-life balance. This section of the “Working for Workers Act” requires Ontario businesses with 25 or more employees to have a written policy by March 1 covering every employee’s right to disconnect from their job at the end of the day. Policies could include expectations about response time for emails and encouraging employees to turn on out-of-office notifications when they aren’t working. Like any change, this will require flexibility on the part of all concerned, so if you’re in HR, get started on designing fair and balanced policies now.
Minimum Wage Increase
Most of us have seen Help Wanted signs in restaurants and shops; increasingly common are signs indicating reduced hours of operation as businesses struggle to find help. Earlier last year, the Ontario government announced a minimum wage increase to $15 per hour as of January 1 with subsequent increases tied to the rate of inflation following that date. Just which employees will be subject to this legislation is unclear, e.g., the increase will apply to liquor servers in the province, who currently make $12.55 per hour, but it’s not stated that all workers making less than $15 per hour are affected by the legislation.
If you have hourly staff, you have two challenges: getting up to speed to determine if/how this legislation applies to you and even if it doesn’t, setting a comparative wage scale so you can attract and retain the talent you need to make your business a success.
While these pieces of legislation are designed to address these challenges, the impact has already been felt and responded to by workers and have contributed to the phenomenon known as the Great Resignation. As with the Great Retirement−Boomers who have taken this opportunity to exit the workforce−resignations have skyrocketed. This has led to severe talent shortages in many fields as workers pursue entrepreneurial options, explore new career paths or drop out of the workforce entirely.
If you are thinking about moving up, over or out, this may well be the time to explore options, as a better job, a career pivot or a radical change have never been more feasible. A colleague in Executive Search noted that there has not been this robust a job market for job seekers in 30 years! As coaches, we are seeing more and more clients who have “had it” and are looking for something new/different/more meaningful/better aligned and find coaching helpful to clarify life as well as work goals and values.
It’s already clear that 2022 will be yet another year of “business as unusual” and that we will probably never get “back” to normal. As you navigate ever-evolving legislative, policy and economic changes, keep calm and carry on to the extent you can, and let us know how we can help.
Happy New World of Work!
Day Merrill, M.A., is the founding Partner and Career/Executive Coach for 2BDetermined. She is a 30-year career services professional with expertise coaching individuals and teams on a range of career and work-related topics as well as consulting to organizations in Canada and the U.S. on their workforce development needs. Day holds a B.A. from Connecticut College, a Master of Arts from Wesleyan University and has completed Coach U’s coach certification training.