Dec 4, 2018
Posted in: workplace
By Jim Edmondson
On October 23, 2018, the Government of Ontario announced Bill 47, ‘Making Ontario Open for Business Act, 2018’ which includes a near-full repeal of Bill 148, the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, 2017. The new Bill, which was tabled by the governing Ontario Progressive Conservatives would, among other actions, repeal a provision the previous Liberal government amended the provincial Employment Standards Act to prohibit employers from requiring a doctor’s note for “personal emergency leave,” which includes personal illness or injury.
The Progressive Conservatives’ new bill would also allow employers “to require evidence of entitlement to the leave that is reasonable in the circumstances.”
The proposed legislation aims to “bring jobs and investment back to our province by lightening the burden on business and making sure that hard work is rewarded,” said a statement from the Ministry of Labour.
The PC Government of Ontario is facing heavy opposition to the Act from trade unions, social advocacy groups and the Canadian Medical Association (CMA). Unions have raised concerns about burden of proof and the punitive nature of requiring verification from a doctor on each absence.
Gabriel Dumont Institute, in conjunction with Article 16 of our CBA does not currently require employees to furnish medical notes for each occasion of absence, only requesting Doctors notes in response to longer terms of absence to ensure that the employee is fit for return.
The CMA is raising concerns about the Ontario government’s move to require workers to provide a doctor’s note to explain even minor illnesses, such as the common cold, saying the measure could cause public health risks, as it will lead to sick people going to work, rather than staying home. The proposed legislation also places an unfair burden on the public and on doctors.
A CMA-sponsored poll, conducted by Ipsos, suggests that a majority of working Canadians oppose allowing employers to require sick notes for minor illnesses. The survey also found that eight in 10 Ontarians who responded said they would likely come in to work when ill if their employer required a sick note. CMA further noted that patients who would have otherwise stayed home may spread viruses or infection while out to get a sick note. There is also concern the legislation also places an unfair burden on the public and on doctors.
The online survey reached 1,134 employed Canadians over the age of 18, and the results are accurate within 3.3 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
With many Provincial Governments in Canada introducing legislation that allows employers more sweeping powers, it is only a matter of time until this type of legislation becomes common place which will change the Human Resource and Industrial Relations landscape for all employers and employees.