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Human rights lens needed for Changing Workplace Review

The OHRC’s submission to the Government’s Changing Workplace Review points out that certain groups face many forms of discrimination in employment. As a result, the increase in non-standard working relationships such as lower pay temporary jobs, involuntary part-time work, and self-employment is having a disproportionate impact on vulnerable groups including Indigenous and racialized communities, women, youth and older workers, as well as persons with disabilities who are over-represented in these types of jobs.

The OHRC recommended several changes, including:

  • Employment standards that apply equally to the various forms of work
  • Minimum wages that better reflect the essential costs of living
  • Pay equity provisions that cover all prohibited Code grounds, not just sex
  • A review of employment standards and labour legislation exemptions for certain occupations, such as domestic and agricultural workers, that are over-represented by historically disadvantaged Code groups
  • More flexible work schedules and personal leave provisions to accommodate religious, family or other Code-based needs
  • Equal access to health and disability benefits for reasons related to pregnancy
  • Pro-rated benefits to part-time employees
  • Requiring collective agreements to have anti-discrimination provisions
  • Essential service agreements and contingency plans take into account negative impacts of a strike on vulnerable Code groups
  • Education and training that clarifies the relationship between obligations under the employment, labour and human rights laws.

Removing the “Canadian experience” barrier – an award-winning effort

In March 2016, the Government of Ontario awarded the OHRC the Ontario Award for Leadership in Immigrant Employment, for its ongoing work to remove the “Canadian experience” barrier that many newcomers face in their search for employment. The OHRC’s Policy on removing the “Canadian experience” barrier is the first of its kind in Canada. It addresses the obstacles many skilled immigrants to Ontario face getting jobs or professional accreditation because their work experience from another country is not recognized. And it reframes the idea of Canadian experience requirements as legitimate requirements – and instead, presents them more properly as discrimination under the Human Rights Code.

The award has historically acknowledged employers and organizations that champion workplace diversity; show leadership in recruiting and mentoring immigrants; or show the positive impacts of hiring immigrants. The award has also recognized immigrants who are entrepreneurs and create jobs in the province.

Challenging age limits in the Code: Talos v. Grand Erie District School Board (HRTO)

Subsection 25(2.1) of the Code permits employers to cut or reduce benefits to workers aged 65 and older. In this Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario case, the age-related distinction permitted by subsection 25(2.1) of the Code with respect to group health, dental and life insurance benefits is being challenged under section 15 of the Charter. The OHRC is intervening in this case, to assert that subsection 25(2.1) of the Code amounts to age discrimination and violates section 15 of the Charter. It allows employers to provide older workers with less compensation for equal work, and sends a message that they are less valuable.

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