The Wold Health Organization (WHO) defines the social determinants of health as the “conditions in which people are born, grow up, live, work and age. These conditions influence a person’s opportunity to be healthy, his/her risk of illness and life expectancy. Social inequities in health – the unfair and avoidable differences in health status across groups in society – are those that result from the uneven distribution of social determinants”. Work plays a very important role in our quality of life, and is often defined as a social determinant of health. And, there is mounting evidence to suggest that the precarious nature of work is having a negative impact on the health of many Canadians. With this in mind, the Ontario government is conducting a review of the shifting world and nature of work and the workplace.
The government released an interim report, where it listed a range of options aimed at “amending Ontario’s Labour Relations Act, 1995, and Employment Standards Act, 2000 to better protect workers while supporting business in today’s economy”.
The government noted the following about this interim report:
- Our chief purpose in issuing this Interim Report is to advise Ontarians of the range of issues that have been identified and the options for change that we are being asked to consider.
- The Changing Workplaces Review has generated much interest. In 12 days of public hearings around the province we have heard from over 200 organizations and individuals and received more than 300 written submissions. We have also met with a variety of stakeholder representatives, ordinary citizens and experts. Before making final recommendations to the government, we felt it advisable to report on the issues identified and the proposals for change that have been suggested so that interested parties will have a chance to make further submissions.
- This Review is the first independent review commissioned by the Ontario Government seeking recommendations for legislative change of the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA) and the Labour Relations Act, 1995 (LRA) in more than a generation. It is the first independent review of the two Acts undertaken together, focusing on changes in the workplace as an integrated problem in both the unionized and the non-unionized workplaces.
- This Review is occurring after a lengthy period of significant changes in the economy of Ontario and in its workplaces. Not surprisingly, because of the breadth of the Review, combined with the scope of change, there is a very large number of issues for us to canvass. Of necessity, we must prioritize and be selective with respect to the issues that we examine in depth.
- The scope of our Review is very broad and, while we intend to deal with a variety of matters, in keeping with our mandate, our key focus will be on vulnerable workers n precarious jobs and the need for legislative amendments to address some of the issues facing these workers. At the same time, we will be mindful of the interests of employers and the potential impact of any proposed change and will carefully consider changes being sought by employers that could impact employees.