New farm labour regulations impact Ontario farms

By Peggy Brekveld,
Vice President, Ontario Federation of Agriculture

Running a farm is a complex business. Laws and regulations from multiple ministries govern Ontario farms on issues ranging from transportation and environment to labour and finance. The passing of Bill 148, Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act in 2017 has added additional layers of complex regulations for Ontario farm employers. The Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) recently hosted a webinar to highlight how changes in the new legislation will impact farm employers and suggested options to comply.

The webinar reviewed how many of the changes resulting from the new Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act have impacted the Employment Standards Act and recommended essential labour resources for Ontario farm employers. This webinar is available on the OFA website for information purposes but should not be considered legal advice. Labour issues can be complex, so you may want to seek legal advice from a specialist in employment law.

The often risky and unpredictable business of agriculture – the seasonality, perishability, external market forces, climate and weather variability, and the challenges of working with biological organisms – combine to make farm employment unique.

Labour laws and regulations must reflect these unique circumstances of farm work, and some flexibility remains under the Employment Standards Act for farm employers to effectively manage human resources in a dynamic workplace. While necessary, trying to regulate a necessarily flexible workplace can create confusion for farm employers about when and how the legislation applies to their operation and employees.

Farm employers must be aware of recent changes to the Employment Standards Act, including the new minimum wage, modifications to the Equal Pay for Equal Work rules, new public holiday and vacation pay calculations, and changes to the suite of workplace leaves of absence. Resources are available from the Ministry of Labour to help farm employers understand their obligations to employees under the act.

For more information on farm employment regulations visit the resources section of OFA’s website for a full list of resources or to watch the full webinar.

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