The Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce (SSMCOC), in partnership with the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) and MNP, one of Canada’s leading accounting firms, has released a comprehensive handbook for Ontario’s business community that provides strategies to help businesses navigate the incoming changes related to Bill 148 (the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act).
The handbook outlines potential risks and challenges that employers may face and offers human resources and operational strategies to help businesses better navigate some of those challenges.
“There is no question that Bill 148 has the potential to add challenges and new costs for Sault Ste. Marie businesses,” says SSMCOC President, Jason Naccarato. “We believe this handbook will provide some guidance and resources to help our members when navigating these issues. Further, as a Chamber we are currently reaching out to our local professionals and experts in a variety of management areas to arrange educational opportunities to help our local businesses navigate the challenges that they may face. We encourage our Chamber members and members of our local business community to look for the announcement of these opportunities.”
Bill 148 will bring in a number of reforms to Ontario’s current labour and employment standards laws, most notably instituting a $15 minimum wage by January 2019, representing a 32% increase over the current minimum wage. The legislation also introduces changes to vacation time, pay for on-call hours, mandatory pay for shifts cancelled with less than 48 hours’ notice and introduces 10 Personal Emergency Leave (PEL) days / year (including 2 paid) for workplaces with under 50 employees.
The handbook outlines the impacts businesses are likely to see from the numerous changes and identifies that small businesses are most likely to face four main issues:
· Profitability: businesses may not be able to keep up a sustainable profit margin;
· Staffing levels: businesses may not have the capacity to maintain current staffing;
· Competition: to keep their doors open, businesses will be forced to raise prices; and
· Taxation: with higher wages comes higher payroll taxes and contributions to EI and CPP.
SSMCOC CEO Rory Ring notes that communication is going to be a key part of the strategy for all businesses impacted by Bill 148. “Businesses need to be able to clearly communicate the changes to their employees especially from a human resource management perspective. They need to be prepared to clearly communicate to their employees the changes that are going to impact them, specific to the legislation.”
Similarly, businesses need to be clear in their communications to their customers, especially if the changes are going to result in higher pricing. Ring adds that in addition to planning how they are going to advise and outline changes with employees, businesses should also be thinking about how they are going to alleviate and deal with customer concerns. He adds that “businesses should be giving fair warning to customers if prices are going to rise and should be providing clear explanations when justifying the price increase. Keep it short but be straightforward and transparent.”
The Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce notes that Bill 148 will not affect all regions of the province equally. Certain sectors are going to be impacted more substantially by the proposed changes. A recent study conducted by the Canadian Centre for Economic Analysis (CANCEA) confirms that sectors like retail trade, manufacturing, accommodations, food service and private sector health care and social services are going to be among some of the hardest hit, and as a result will face the greatest chances for significant job losses. The local Chamber remains particularly concerned, as these are precisely the sectors that make up a large part of Sault Ste. Marie’s job market.
The full handbook is available at Steering Through Change, A Handbook to Help Ontario Businesses Understand and Manage Bill 148.