The Ontario government is introducing legislation that, if passed, would put in place ground-breaking protections for more than 400,000 people in the restaurant and hospitality industry. The Working for Workers Four Act, 2023, includes updates to the province’s Employment Standards Act, which would ban unpaid trial shifts and make clear that employers can never deduct an employee’s wages in the event of a dine and dash, gas and dash, or any other stolen property.
“It is unacceptable that any worker in our province should have their wages deducted or see themselves put in harm’s way because of someone else’s criminal activity,” said David Piccini, Minister of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development. “Under the leadership of Premier Ford, our government is continuing to stand up for those in Ontario’s service industry to ensure workers keep their hard-earned money.”
Studies have shown as many as one in 20 diners has left a restaurant without paying, while gas thefts cost Ontario businesses over $3 million in 2022. While Ontario’s laws generally require employees to be paid for all hours worked and prohibit pay deductions, unpaid trial shifts and punitive deductions are still common in the restaurant and service industries.
The government is also proposing changes that would require employers to post in the workplace if they have a policy of sharing in pooled tips – something that is only allowed if they perform the same work as their staff. This would help ensure service workers are paid what they are owed, and that they understand how their tips are calculated and distributed.
“These changes to the Employment Standards Act give restaurant employees the protection they deserve. They will reduce costs for employees around their gratuities, ensure their earnings are safeguarded from patrons who dine and dash and reinforce that our employees’ hard-earned paycheques are their own. These positive changes simply reflect what is already practiced by the vast majority of those in our industry,” says Kelly Higginson, president and CEO of Restaurants Canada.
In response to the rise of digital payment platforms in the service industry, which can include fees for workers to access their funds, as well as technical and security issues, the proposed changes would also require employers who pay tips using direct deposit to allow their employees to select the account tips are to be deposited into. This would help workers avoid fees they didn’t agree to so they may access their tips in full when needed.
Also included in the Working for Workers Four Act, 2023, are proposed changes to promote salary transparency and privacy in the workplace, increase benefits for injured workers and firefighters and supports for newcomers.
These changes are part of a larger package that, if passed, would expand on the ground-breaking actions in the Working for Workers Acts, 2021, 2022 and 2023, which are already helping millions of people in the province earn bigger pay cheques and help newcomers contribute to building Ontario.