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History of employment standards in Ontario

Table of Contents
  1. History of Employment Standards in Ontario
  2. History of Health and Safety Legislation in Ontario
  3. Ontario Health and Safety Chronology
  4. How a bill becomes an act

History of Employment Standards in Ontario Top

The Employment Standards Act first appeared in 1968.

It replaced other pieces of legislation which set standards in the workplace: the Hours of Work and Vacations with Pay Act and the Minimum Wage Act, which established hourly minimum wages and overtime entitlements.

The current Employment Standards Act, 2000 (the "ESA") sets out the minimum standards for employees in workplaces in Ontario.

It establishes
  • minimum standards for hours of work,
  • minimum wages,
  • overtime pay,
  • public holidays,
  • vacation with pay,
  • termination and severance pay
  • the rights to pregnancy and parental leave,
  • non-discrimination in employment-related benefit plans,
  • equal pay for equal work
  • protects employees from dismissal if their wages are subject to garnishments,
  • protects against the use of lie detector tests on employees
  • allows retail employees, under some circumstances, to refuse Sunday work.
Important Dates in Ontario Employment Standards Legislative History
1884 Ontario Factories Act, set minimum age and maximum hours of work for boys and girls.
1920 Minimum Wage Act, set minimum wage for employees (female).
1922 One Day's Rest in Seven Act, provided for at least 24 consecutive hours rest in seven days (applied, with exceptions, to hotels, restaurants and cafes in cities).
1935 Industrial Standards Act, set industry wide maximum hours of work for industries.
1936 Factory, Shop and Office Building Act, the term "homeworker" was defined to ensure minimum employment standards for these workers.
1944 Hours of Work and Vacations with Pay Act, set minimum annual vacation time and vacation pay.
1968 Employment Standards Act, set eight hour day and 48 hour work week and brought together other minimum employment standards within one act.
1970 Women's Equal Employment Opportunity Act, provided leave of absence without pay for women prior to and after pregnancy.
1990 Employment Standards Act, was amended to extend pregnancy leave to 17 weeks and introduced parental leave.
2001 Employment Standards Act, 2000, introduced emergency leave, reprisal provisions and written agreements that may vary employment standards.

History of Health and Safety Legislation in Ontario Top

In the late 1970s, the Government of Ontario began a process of updating the province's health and safety laws.

Separate laws covering different industrial sectors were replaced with a comprehensive law covering almost all Ontario workplaces. This law, the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA), was passed in 1978 and has been in force since 1979.

The philosophy behind the law is known as the 'internal responsibility system'. Although this term is not mentioned in any legislation, the Ministry of Labour's guide to the act makes it clear that the government expects employers and workers to cooperate to control occupational health and safety hazards.

A turning point came in 1974. Uranium miners in Elliot Lake became alarmed about the high incidence of lung cancer and silicosis, and they went on strike over health and safety conditions. The government appointed a Royal Commission to investigate health and safety in mines. Chaired by Dr. James Ham, it became known as the Ham Commission.

Evolution of the Internal Responsibility System
1975 The Ham Commission Report recommends joint committees.
1976 Bill 139 establishes the Employee's Health and Safety Act. The Minister can order joint committees.
1978 Bill 70 establishes the Occupational Health and Safety Act. Mandatory joint committees in many workplaces.
1987 Bill 79 adds Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System to the Occupational Health and Safety Act.
1990 Bill 208 amends the Occupational Health and Safety Act, broadening the requirement for joint committees. Establishes certified members and the right to stop work.

The Ham Commission Report included more than 100 recommendations concerning mine health and safety. Ham was also concerned about the administration of health and safety. He developed the idea of an internal responsibility system, which would require government, employers and workers to cooperate to improve health and safety. To implement this system, he advocated the creation of joint labour-management health and safety committees, with worker members.

Subsequent amendments to the Act established new procedures as well as new rights and duties for workers, employers, supervisors and others in the workplace. Most important, they established joint health and safety committees in the workplace and gave them the right to participate in health and safety recommendations.

Information extracted from OSH for Everyone, WSIB

Ontario Health and Safety Chronology Top
Ontario Health and Safety Chronology
1884 Passage of the Ontario Factories Act (now the Occupational Health and Safety Act). It set up a system of inspection to ensure safety and health standards in factories.
1911 Building Trades Protection Act. Provides some measures for safety of tradesmen engaged in construction of buildings.
1914 Passage of the Workmen's Compensation Act, creating the Workmen's Compensation Board - now Workplace Safety and Insurance Board - WSIB:
1915 Electrical Utilities Safety Association (EUSA: is formed.
1915 Forest Products Accident Prevention Association (FPAPA now OFSWA: is formed.
1915 Ontario Pulp and Paper Makers Safety Association (OPPMSA now PPHSA: is formed.
1917 Industrial Accident Prevention Association (IAPA: is formed.
1919 Department of Labour (now Ministry of Labour: is established; responsible for a number of pieces of safety-related legislation (e.g., Stationary and Hoisting Engineers Act).
1926 Underground Work Regulation. It covers work in shafts, tunnels, caissons, cribwork; two factory inspectors are assigned to it.
1929 Construction Safety Association (CSAO: is formed.
1930 Mines Accident Prevention Association of Ontario (MAPAO is now MASHA: is formed.
1942 Transportation Safety Association of Ontario (TSAO is now THSAO: is formed.
1950 Royal Commission on the Workmen's Compensation Act (Roach Commission). It was not clear whether rules under the WCB Act were to prevent accidents or to manage the safety associations. Accident prevention should be as important to WCB as compensation. Joint labour-management workplace committees are recommended.
1954 Trench Excavator's Protection Act.
1961 Royal Commission on Industrial Safety (McAndrew Commission): "Accident prevention associations are not functioning ... as contemplated by the Act and ... are isolated islands of autonomy having no responsibility to report to or even advise the Board".
1964 Amendment of the Workmen's Compensation Act. It establishes the role of the associations as education, not inspection; associations are to report to Board.
1965 Labour Safety Council Report. Recommends there be labour representatives on safety association boards.
1965 WCB establishes Safety Education Department under a full-time director, to integrate resources and co-ordinate the programs of the safety associations.
1968 Health Care Occupational Health and Safety Association (HCOHSA is now OSACH: is formed as a department of the Ontario Hospital Association (OHA).
1969 College, University and School Safety Council (CUSSCO is now ESAO: is formed.
1973 Farm Safety Association is formed under Section 123 of the Workmen's Compensation Act.
1976 Royal Commission on the Health and Safety of Workers in Mines (the Ham Report). This Commission is in response to a wildcat strike by mine workers in Elliot Lake over health and safety concerns. The report has a significant effect on the content of the Occupational Health and Safety Act (1978).
1978 Passage of the Occupational Health and Safety Act. Concepts of the Ham Report are incorporated into a participative model that forms the basis of the Act.
1980 Founding of the independent Radiation Safety Institute of Canada in Elliot Lake, Ontario.
1981 Joint Federal-Provincial Inquiry Commission into Safety in Mines and Mining Plants (Burkett Commission) recommends that MAPAO sever its ties with the Ontario Mining Association, establish labour-management advisory committees at provincial and regional levels, and include labour representatives on its board.
1981 Advisory Council on Occupational Health and Occupational Safety recommends clearly spelling out WCB's direct responsibility for prevention in the legislation; Council of Safety Associations to establish overall objectives to guide the associations.
1984 Occupational Health and Safety Education Authority (OHSEA) is established with a tripartite structure, including Vice-Chairs representing labour and management.
1984 Workmen's Compensation Act is amended to empower the WCB to fund organizations that did not qualify as safety associations.
1984 Report of the Royal Commission on Matters of Health and Safety Arising from the Use of Asbestos in Ontario. Says Ontario "is the scene of ... a world-class occupational health disaster: the Johns Manville plant in Scarborough...".
1985 OEW and OWA created as branches of the Ministry of Labour.
1985 Workers Health and Safety Centre is recognized by WCB as eligible for funding like other safety associations WHSC:
1986 Municipal Health and Safety program (MHSP: is formed.
1988 Tourism and Hospitality Industry Health and Safety Education program (THIHSEP) is formed (now part of OSSA:
1989 Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers (OHCOW) is
1990 Bill 208 is passed. OHSEA is disbanded and the Workplace Health and Safety Agency is established to "oversee" operation of the safety associations.
1992 OEA and OWA become independent agencies of the Ministry of Labour.
1992 HCOHSA becomes Care-givers of Ontario Safety and Health Association (COSHA), a bipartite organization independent of the OHA.
1993 Forest Products Accident Prevention Association, Ontario Pulp and Paper Makers Safety Association, and Mines Accident Prevention Association merge to form the Ontario Natural Resources Safety Association (ONRSA).
1993 Workplace Health and Safety Agency launches certification training program.
1994 Funding for THIHSEP is transferred to the IAPA. Funding for COSHA and CUSSCO is transferred to the Workers Health and Safety Centre.
1997 Workplace Safety and Insurance Act. The agency is abolished; the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board absorb its functions. The Education Safety Association of Ontario, Health Care Health and Safety Association, and Ontario Service Safety Alliance ( are formed.
1998 Mines and Aggregates Safety and Health Association, Ontario Forestry Safe Workplace Association and Pulp and Paper Health and Safety Association are established.
1998 Ministry of Labour releases strategy document - Preventing Illness & Injury: A better Health and Safety System for Ontario Workplaces.
2000 The Council of Safe Workplace Associations becomes the Occupational Health & Safety Council of Ontario (OHSCO).

Information extracted from WSIB website

How a bill becomes an act Top

This site mentions several acts, Ontario legislation that set standards for your safety, compensation if injured, pay and time off, among other things. Here's a link to information on how acts are created.

Legislative Assembly of Ontario: How a Bill becomes law

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