Exemptions in Ontario's Employment Standards Act: Deepening Labour Market Insecurity

Monday, 16 July 2018: 17:45
Oral Presentation
Leah VOSKO, York University, Canada
John GRUNDY, York University, Department of Political Science, Canada
Rebecca CASEY, Department of Political Science, York University, Canada
Andrea NOACK, Ryerson University, Canada
The Ontario Employment Standards Act (ESA) is a key source of workplace protection for employees in Ontario. Since its inception in 1968, however, the ESA and regulations made pursuant to it have specified exemptions and rules that provide ‘special treatment’ for certain industries, occupations, or sectors. As a result, the ESA and its regulations include a complex web of more than eighty-five exemptions, partial exemptions, and qualifying conditions, which limit the application of its protections. The central argument of this paper is that exemptions and special rules can exacerbate precarious employment among the employees to whom they apply, often with the consequence of deepening insecurity among those belonging to disadvantaged social groups in the labour force, such as young people, recent immigrants, and women. Legislators must therefore direct attention towards eliminating unprincipled exemptions with a view to, at once, confronting precarious employment and social disadvantage.