Ontario's Labour Code: How does it compare to Manitoba's?

Changes to Ontario’s labour code: How do they compare to Manitoba’s?

Changes to Ontario’s labour code: How do they compare to Manitoba’s?


I was reading an article written by Dan Kelly yesterday. Mr. Kelly is the president of CFIB (the Canadian Federation of Independent Business). They boast a large membership and are often the voice of small business on the national scene.

Mr. Kelly was looking forward to 2018 and reflecting on the upcoming challenges and opportunities (unfortunately, for the small business owners he foresees more challenges than opportunities…)

He cited Ontario’s changes to its labour code as one of the challenges. You have probably heard about Tim Horton’s reaction and how the minimum wage is increasing to $15\hour. Mr. Kelly fears that those changes will spread across the country. This of course led me to wonder about the difference between the Ontario Code and ours, so I looked into it.

Employment standards legislation

Before I outline how the Ontario changes stack up against our labour code, I should give you some context. Provinces rather than the federal government legislate in regards to employment standards. In Ontario, the Employment Standards Act applies, and in Manitoba, we have the Employment Standards Code. These laws establish MINIMUM standards. You can’t get around them. For example, each provincial statute legislates minimum wage. An employer and employee cannot agree by contract, that the employee will receive less than the minimum wage. If a contract includes a term contrary to the standards acts, it is void.

Employees and employers are otherwise free to agree on any other term, as long as that agreement does not offend the applicable provincial law. For example, the Manitoba Code establishes a minimum of 2 weeks paid vacation after the first year of employment. But an employer and employee are free to negotiate more if they wish.

Common law principles

You should also be aware that employment standards legislation is not the only set of rules you must contend with. Unless the employee and employer enter into a complete formal written agreement, courts will infer certain provisions which are usually in the favour of employees. I’ve written about the importance of written employment contracts here.

Ontario v Manitoba

Equal pay

Ontario – Mandate equal pay for part-time, temporary, casual and seasonal employees doing the same job as full-time employees; and equal pay for temporary help agency employees doing the same job as employees at the agencies’ client companies

Manitoba – Our Code does not include anything similar. Employers are free to offer less pay to part time employees and contractors.


Ontario – Expand personal emergency leave to 10 days per calendar year for all employees, with at least two paid days per year for employees who have been employed for at least a week

Manitoba – We do not have an « emergency leave » category. In our Code the following leaves are mandated:

  • Maternity Leave (17 weeks – unpaid)
  • Parental Leave (37 weeks – unpaid)
  • Compassionate Care Leave (28 weeks – unpaid)
  • Family Leave (3 days per year – unpaid)
  • Bereavement Leave (3 days per year – unpaid)
  • Unpaid Leave for Reservists (period of service – unpaid)
  • Unpaid Leave for Organ Donation (13 weeks – unpaid)
  • For Citizenship Ceremony (4 hours – unpaid)
  • Related to Critical Illness of Child (37 weeks – unpaid)
  • Leave Related to Death or Disappearance of Child (104 weeks of the child died as a result of crime and 52 weeks if the child has disappeared as the result of a crime – unpaid)
  • Long-Term Leave for Serious Injury or Illness (17 weeks – unpaid)
  • Domestic Violence Leave (see below)

Ontario currently offers similar types of leaves, which include: Pregnancy, parental, Personal Emergency, Family Caregiver, Family Medical Leave, Critical Illness, Organ Donor, Child Death, Crime-related Child Disappearance, Reservist and Domestic Violence.

Emergency Leave

  • Ontario – Ban employers from requiring a doctor’s sick note from an employee taking personal emergency leave
  • Manitoba – We do not have this category of leave. The Ontario statute allows an employee to take emergency leave for « This leave may be taken for personal illness, injury or medical emergency. » In Manitoba, our Code does not address short term sick leave. Serious injury or Illness leave does require medical support.

Domestic Violence

  • Ontario – Provide up to 17 weeks off without the fear of losing their job when a worker or their child has experienced or is threatened with domestic or sexual violence, including paid leave for the first five days
  • Manitoba – This is currently part of our Code.


  • Ontario – Bring Ontario’s vacation time in line with the national average by ensuring at least three weeks’ vacation after five years with the same employer
  • Manitoba – This is currently part of our Code.


  • Ontario – Make employee scheduling fairer, including requiring employees to be paid for three hours of work if their shift is cancelled within 48 hours of its scheduled start time
  • Manitoba – an employee is entitled to at least three hours of paid wages, if they work less than three hours. Our Code does not include an obligation to pay employees for a cancelled shift.


The sky isn’t falling.


I haven’t compared how any of the other provincial statutes compare. However, I am having difficulty seeing the Ontario changes as so significant that it will be a major challenge for business. I believe that the other items listed in Mr. Kelly’s article will have a much larger impact. Items like the future of NAFTA, increasing interest rates and changes to the income tax act affecting small businesses will have a much larger impact.

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