In a significant move aimed at enhancing protections for the restaurant and hospitality industry, the Ontario government has proposed new legislation.
Titled the Working for Workers Four Act, 2023, this bill, if enacted, will bring about transformative updates to the province’s Employment Standards Act, impacting over 400,000 individuals in the sector.
The legislation seeks to outlaw unpaid trial shifts, a prevalent issue in the service industry. Additionally, it would explicitly prohibit employers from deducting wages from employees in instances of “dine and dash,” “gas and dash,” or other scenarios involving stolen property.
David Piccini, the Minister of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development, emphasized that it is unjust for workers to face wage deductions or personal risk due to criminal activities by others. He credited Premier Ford’s leadership for the government’s continued support of service industry workers in Ontario.
This initiative addresses a notable problem in Ontario’s service sector. Studies indicate that approximately one in 20 diners leave restaurants without paying, and gas thefts alone cost businesses over $3 million in 2022. Despite general legal requirements for employees to be paid for all hours worked and the prohibition of pay deductions, the practice of unpaid trial shifts and punitive deductions remains widespread.
The government also proposes mandatory workplace postings by employers if they share in pooled tips, a practice only permissible if they perform the same duties as their staff. This measure aims to ensure fair payment and clarity for service workers regarding tip calculations and distribution.
In response to the growing use of digital payment platforms, which often involve fees and security concerns, the proposed legislation mandates that employers offering direct deposit for tips allow employees to choose the account for depositing these funds. This provision is designed to protect workers from unforeseen fees and facilitate full access to their tips.
Furthermore, the Working for Workers Four Act, 2023, includes proposals to promote salary transparency, enhance privacy in the workplace, and increase benefits for injured workers and firefighters, along with support for newcomers.
These changes are part of a broader initiative following the Working for Workers Acts of 2021, 2022, and 2023. They aim to build on the existing framework to ensure better wages and improved conditions for millions in Ontario.
Industry leaders have welcomed these measures. Kelly Higginson, President and CEO of Restaurants Canada, praised the changes for offering deserved protections to restaurant employees and safeguarding their earnings.
Guled Warsame, President of UNITE HERE Local 75, highlighted the necessity of these measures for ensuring a safe and healthy work environment. Tony Elenis, President and CEO of the Ontario Restaurant Hotel and Motel Association, commended the clarity and fairness these changes would bring to both operators and employees in the restaurant sector.