The start of 2022 marks the end of another pandemic year. Companies across Canada have been experiencing big changes, which include progression back to normal life, as well as regression back to lockdowns and isolation.
We could argue this past year has been more stable than 2020, but there were still some twists, turns, and bumps along the way. Provinces across Canada saw mask mandates repealed and then reinstated, the addition of paid leave for employees, and employer reimbursement programs. COVID-19 vaccinations have been a rollercoaster ride themselves.
To help your company stay on top of legislative compliance, we’ve compiled a list of the most important changes to expect for 2022 and for Ontario workplaces in 2021.
Upcoming Changes in 2022:
- The government of Ontario is raising the minimum wage to $15.00 an hour as of January 1, 2022, and eliminating the special minimum wage rate for liquor servers.
- Effective January 4, 2022, Ontario will require the use of the enhanced vaccine certificate with QR code and the Verify Ontario app in settings where proof of vaccination is required. In addition, all healthcare settings must conduct infection prevention and control (IPAC) self-audits.
- Under the Employment Standards Act, 2000, the COVID-19 period was extended to July 30, 2022, meaning after this date employees will no longer be deemed to be on unpaid infectious diseases emergency leave, and the regular temporary layoff and constructive dismissal rules apply.
- The Industrial Establishments regulation (Regulation 851) under the Occupational Health and Safety Act was amended to streamline and clarify pre-start health and safety review requirements while maintaining existing worker health and safety protections. The changes came into effect on January 1, 2022.
- The Ontario government is extending the temporary wage increase for personal support workers and direct support workers in home and community care, long-term care, public hospitals, and children, community, and social services until March 31, 2022.
- The Working for Workers Act, 2021 passed in December 2021 and added a requirement for employers to have a disconnecting from work policy, among other changes. These policies must be implemented by June 3, 2022.
- Bill 48, the Support Workers Pay Act, 2021, has been proposed. If passed, the act will increase the minimum pay for support workers and require employers to provide travel payments per kilometre travelled between worksites.
- Twice in 2021, legislation was introduced to provide up to 10 paid days of personal emergency leave. Bill 7, the 10 Paid Sick Days for Ontario Workers Act, 2021, was introduced in the second session and may pass in 2022.
- Ontario’s Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) is cutting premium rates in 2022 by an average of five percent for employers.
- The Canada Employment Insurance Commission (CEIC) announced that the 2022 Employment Insurance (EI) premium rate will remain at $1.58 per $100 of insurable earnings for employees and $2.21 for employers who pay 1.4 times the employee rate. The maximum insurable earnings (MIE) for 2022 will increase to $60,300 from $56,300 in 2021, and the maximum annual EI contribution for a worker will increase to $952.74 (up $88.48 for employers to $1,333.84 per employee).
Changes that happened in 2021:
- Minimum wage increased by 10 cents to $14.35 an hour on October 1, 2021.
- On January 1, 2021, amendments to O. Reg. 297/13, Occupational Health and Safety Awareness and Training, came into force and revised the requirements for working at heights.
- Bill 238, the Workplace Safety and Insurance Amendment Act, 2021, received Royal Assent on April 14, 2021, and immediately helps protect employers from an unexpected increase in Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) premiums, while maintaining an increase to the maximum earnings cap for worker benefits.
- On April 29, 2021, the government passed Bill 284, the COVID-19 Putting Workers First Act, 2021, requiring employers to provide employees up to three days’ pay if they miss work for reasons relating to COVID-19, including because they are getting vaccinated or experiencing a side effect from a COVID-19 vaccination, retroactive to April 19, 2021, and until July 31, 2022.
- For businesses and non-profits with 20 or more employees, the date for submitting a compliance report under Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 (AODA) was extended to June 30, 2021. For designated public-sector organizations, the deadline to submit an accessibility compliance report was December 31, 2021.
- On July 1, 2021, O. Reg. 420/21, Notices and Reports under Sections 51 to 53.1 of the Act – Fatalities, Critical Injuries, Occupational Illnesses and Other Incidents, came into effect and incorporated the critical injury definition and streamlined reporting requirements into a single regulation that applies to all workplaces covered under the OHSA.
- Ontario mandated COVID-19 immunization policies for long-term care homes as of July 1, 2021. The government then mandated that by December 13, 2021, all staff, support workers, students, and volunteers working in long-term care homes must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or have a valid medical exemption, or else they cannot enter a long-term care home to work.
- As of August 25, 2021, under O. Reg. 577/21, all Ontario businesses must follow any advice, recommendations, and instructions issued by the chief medical officer of health or their local medical officer requiring the business to establish, implement, and ensure compliance with a COVID-19 vaccination policy.
- The chief medical officer of health issued a directive mandating high-risk settings, such as hospitals and ambulance services, have a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy for employees, staff, contractors, students, and volunteers effective no later than September 7, 2021.
- The Ontario government announced that the Ontario COVID-19 Worker Income Protection Benefit program is extended to July 31, 2022, for employer reimbursement. This program began April 29, 2021. Eligible employers can apply for reimbursement up to $200 per day of leave per employee through the WSIB.
- Starting September 22, 2021, some businesses must require proof of COVID-19 vaccination from each patron who enters the business, per changes to O. Reg. 645/21.
- The new Not-for-Profit Corporations Act, 2010 came into force October 19, 2021. This act was created to assist not-for-profit organizations in various ways, such as making the incorporation process for not-for-profit corporations more efficient.
- Amendments were made to the Remembrance Week Act, 2016 as of November 9, 2021, that provide every worker in Ontario the right to wear a poppy in the workplace during the seven days leading up to Remembrance Day.
- The Working for Workers Act, 2021 received Royal Assent on December 2, 2021, and banned employers from using non-compete agreements as of October 25, 2021. The act made other changes not yet in force, such as business owners allowing washroom access to delivery drivers, and licensing requirements for temporary help agencies and recruiters.