Changing laws to accommodate changing workplaces

By MPP Toby Barrett

The future of work is here.

Your Ontario government is pivoting to chart a course that leaves no one behind. We’re making changes that will put Ontario workers and their families first for generations to come. 

We are laying the foundation for opportunity and prosperity. This means taking immediate action to plan for the future. While many places are just starting to rebuild from the pandemic, we are already thinking ahead to what the next 10 or 20 years will look like. We’re thinking about the workplaces of the future, and what we can for our children and grandchildren.

We have introduced additional labour legislation—the Working for Workers Act, 2022. This proposed law builds on the important measures passed last year in our previous bill. That bill protects families by providing family time, requiring most workplaces to have a written policy on disconnecting from work, helping ensure more workers can unplug at the end of the day.

Our most recent legislation would help attract more talent, help skilled workers find good jobs, and ensure employers can find the qualified workers they need to prosper and grow.

Last fall, there were well over 300,000 vacant jobs across Ontario, including many in the skilled trades.  These unfilled jobs cost Ontario billions in lost productivity.  Worker shortages impact our economy and disrupt our supply chains and services.  Worse, unfilled jobs can force companies to close or relocate.  That’s why we are proposing to make it easier for workers from other provinces and territories to come to Ontario.

Under our proposed legislation, workers from other provinces and territories would get their credentials processed within 30 business days, making it easier to fill vacant jobs and drive growth.

On another note, Canada has a proud military tradition, and our 11,000 Ontario reservists are an integral part of that.  Reservists bravely serve on the frontlines during times of crisis, both at home and abroad.  We rely on them to provide support and protection.

These dedicated men and women selflessly put their lives on hold to protect our freedom. Whether they are training or deployed in an operation, their day jobs should be waiting for them when they return.  It’s shameful that many reservists must use their vacation time to serve our country.

That’s why we are proposing to expand job-protected reservist leave—which already covers deployments—to cover time away for military skills training and cut in half the time they must be employed in their day job to qualify for the leave.  

The landscape of work is shifting quickly, especially since the dawn of Covid, and our laws and protections not only need to keep up but set the pace.

Despite workplace changes, some things remain the same. We know people need to feel confident they can support their families and provide for the future.  We also know they want well-paying jobs, where they have their employment rights protected and have an opportunity for growth and advancement.

Ontario must continue to be a leader in protecting workers. This recent Working for Workers Act will ensure workers’ needs are supported, their health and safety will be prioritized, and their rights are protected. These changes will help keep and attract the best talent and ensure Ontario’s economy remains strong.

Toby Barrett is the MPP for Haldimand-Norfolk