Torkin Manes LegalPoint
Oct 2, 2020

Temporary Wage Enhancements for PSWs and Direct Support Workers and Increase to Minimum Wage in Ontario

By Irv Kleiner and Shreya Patel

On October 1, 2020, the Government of Ontario announced that it would be providing a temporary wage increase for personal support workers (PSWs) and direct support workers in the home and community care, long-term care, public hospitals, and social services sectors.

This temporary wage increase is effective October 1, 2020 and will continue until March 31, 2021, subject to further extension by the Government of Ontario. The government has indicated that this new temporary wage enhancement will be reviewed on a regular basis in connection with regulations made under the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act, 2020.

PSWs and direct support workers will be entitled to an increase of:

  • $3 per hour if they work in long-term care, home and community care
  • $3 per hour if they work in children, community and social services providing personal direct support services for the activities of daily living and
  • $2 per hour if they work in public hospitals

This temporary wage increase for PSWs and direct support workers will impact  the labour relations between employers and their bargaining agents in a unionized environment as some trade unions have previously alleged that it is improper and indeed a violation of the Labour Relations Act for employers to be negotiating wage increases directly with any group of employees during the term of a collective agreement or, for employers to unilaterally introduce compensation improvements in their efforts to recruit and retain staff without involving the trade union.

It should be noted that it is only PSW’s who are eligible for the interim increase and as such, the wage gap between non-eligible staff and PSW’s in the identified workplaces will widen for a period of time.  It is possible that during collective bargaining, some of the Union’s may attempt to pursue interim “catch up” adjustments from employers for employees in other “non eligible classifications” and this is something that we will continue to monitor.  

It is important to appreciate that the interim temporary increase in wages is not to be included in the employee’s base rate of pay and that it is a payment that should be treated as a payment that is in addition to the base rate of pay.

The interim wage adjustment for PSW’s does not apply to PSW’s who work in retirement homes. As such, it is possible that retirement home operators will be met with some challenges in terms of continuing to staff their facilities with PSW’s especially in the current COVID-19 environment when health care workers have been required to elect to work for only employer during the pandemic.   

We will continue to monitor  developments that may arise and we will continue to update our clients.

Minimum Wage Rates Increased for Ontario Workers

Effective October 1, 2020, Ontario’s minimum wage increased for the first time since January of 2018.  Pursuant to  the Making Ontario Open for Business Act, the provincial minimum wage has been increased by 25 cents per hour. The increase is intended to be aligned with the Ontario Consumer Price Index for 2020. 

Minimum wage rates in Ontario will increase as follows:

  • General minimum wage to increase from $14.00 to $14.25 per hour
  • Student minimum wage to increase from $13.15 to $13.40 per hour and
  • Liquor servers’ minimum wage to increase from $13.15 to $13.40 per hour

The Government initiated  increase to the minimum wage rate does not require employers to increase the wage rates of  other employees who currently earn a wage rate that is higher than the minimum wage rate. Having said that, it is anticipated that trade unions (in a unionized environment) and employees may attempt to secure wage increases from their employers  in order to maintain their relative wage position in a work environment that includes employees  in different classifications who may have  different skills, abilities, experience and seniority. 

If you have any questions about temporary wage enhancements, COVID-19 and your workplace, or any other human resource law issue, please contact a member of our team. For more information about dealing with COVID-19, please visit our COVID-19 Resource Center.