York University researchers contribute to federal labour law reform

Photo by Miguel Aguilera on Unsplash

Three York University researchers informed the federal government’s recent introduction of reforms to the Canada Labour Code under Bill C-86. This legislation, put forward on Nov. 1, was shaped by consultations held with stakeholders, including team members from Closing the Employment Standards Enforcement Gap: Improving Protections for People in Precarious Jobs.


Leah Vosko

Closing the Gap is a SSHRC-funded Partnership Grant led by York politics Professor Leah F. Vosko from the Faculty of Liberal Arts and Professional Studies (LA&PS) and involving sociology Professor Mark P. Thomas, also from LA&PS, and Professor Eric Tucker from York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School, as well as a team of researchers from 16 other universities and cross-sectoral partner organizations.

Eric Tucker

The Canada Labour Code covers workers in federally regulated industries. Reforms to the Canada Labour Code that were influenced by Closing the Gap’s research findings are:

  • The prohibition of differences in wage rates based on the employment status and form of employment of the employee (e.g., rate of pay must be equal between full and part-time employees for the same work).
  • The provision of five days of personal emergency leave, including three paid days, as well as five days of paid leave for victims of family violence.
  • The stipulation that workers must be given their work schedules at least 96 hours in advance, and allows workers to refuse last-minute shifts (i.e., within 96 hours) without fear of reprisal.
  • The strengthening of the federal Wage Earner Protection Program, which supports workers who are owed wages after their employer files for bankruptcy.
  • The regulation of contract flipping, that is, efforts to address continuity of employment issues when contracts are retendered.
  • The introduction of a series of measures that seek to augment protections for temporary agency workers, such as a bar on fees for work and provisions that seek to remove impediments to securing direct employment with client firms.
Mark Thomas

Closing the Gap’s recommendations can be found in the report the team submitted to the consultation process, as well as in Agenda for Change, a policy report released in 2017. For more information on the changes to the Canada Labour Code, see the federal government’s final consultation report and Bill C-86.

The Canada Labour Code reforms follow key provisions of Ontario’s Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act (2017) designed to improve conditions of work for workers in precarious jobs. The Closing the Gap team also participated actively in the extensive consultations leading to the passage of that act and several team members prepared two commissioned reports for the consultations. The current provincial government has recently tabled legislation, repealing many of the provisions of the 2017 act, as well as suspending a commitment to hire additional Employment Standards Officers and freezing proactive workplace inspections, both of which are key to enforcing the legislation as demonstrated by research conducted by the Closing the Gap team.

After many years of analyzing provincial employment standards, Vosko and the Closing the Gap team, including leading investigators Thomas and Tucker at York University and Ryerson University Professor Andrea Noack, are now beginning a more extensive investigation into how to improve labour standards enforcement under the Canada Labour Code with a project funded by CFI, OFI and with participation by the Canada Labour Program.