Are Ontario’s New Labour Laws Causing Workplace Morale Crisis?

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Perhaps you will agree: navigating through the media fallout caused by Bill 148 can be nerve-wracking for a small business owner. Daily news covers Bill 148 implementation disasters and it may be negatively affecting worker morale. The changes meant to empower workers have brought windfall gains for some, but for others who know their companies are not on solid ground, they go to work each day wondering if they’ll have a job tomorrow.

There are things business owners can do to reduce the risks their business faces as a result of Bill 148, confirms Aline Ayoub, Human Resource Consultant. Aline offers leadership strategies to help your business not only survive, but thrive in this new higher labour cost era.

As a first step let’s take a closer look at how the media may have played a role in upsetting your workplace.


A Question of Workplace Morale

Anyone reading the daily paper these days has been served a steady diet of Bill 148 Terror Stories. Tim Horton’s scored the most points in daily coverage, with anger exploding into a full “National Day of Action in Support of Tim Hortons workers” on January 19th .  Earlier in the month we learned that Conservatives would roll back the change if elected. This must have felt like a bludgeon through the heart for minimum-wage earners, and a poke in the eye to business owners who would have to manage the implementation of flip-flop, and suffer the disastrous implications. Business owners were offered a glimmer of hope with news that Ontario’s largest business lobby is asking Finance Minister Charles Sousa for assistance in funding the wage increase. Additionally, as we read about the latest rape scandal and the #MeToo Movement, women workers were reminded that they still must work over 5 months to earn a man’s 4 months of wages.

Aline Ayoub is concerned that all of this has created sense of unrest among the public, and a deep sense of rupture in some workplaces, eroding trust felt toward management. Some workers fear that the hike in labour costs will spell doom for their employers. For some workers, rather than feeling excited about the gift delivered by Kathleen Wynn, instead feel concern that their windfall could push their company out of business. Call it an invisible elephant, but many employees are going to work each day feeling worried, upset, and vulnerable.

One result is that some employees are reacting by beginning to job hunt, seeking out better wages, benefits and security. When you consider the very low unemployment rate in Canada, a business which experiences an unplanned turnover may find it extremely difficult to replace those valued workers.

How does a business owner navigate these challenges? Human Resource Consulting expert Aline Ayoub says:

Business Owners Must Lean In

Bill 148 slammed turbulent change into our workplaces overnight. While business owners race to update their HR policies and procedures, calculate and plan for the increased costs, and deal with the fallout, both workers and management are asking themselves tough questions. But, if they are not talking together, then unspoken fears about the changes smolder and undermine morale.

Morale issues always translate into lost productivity. And lost productivity is an increased cost, coming at a time when many businesses cannot afford more cost burdens. Aline Ayoub, Human Resource Consulting expert provides some solutions.

Here are five things you can do to address the Bill 148 fall out in your workplace:

  1. Strengthen Trust in the Workplace – If your workplace relationships are not based on trust, then this will contribute to employees feeling manipulated. This problem can be reversed, but it takes integrity, patience and time.
  2. Show Respect Toward Every One of Your Workers – Respected workers are not micromanaged. The result is higher creativity and productivity.
  3. Nurture Creativity – Bringing your teams together to discuss the challenges now presented can open a problem-solving exercise that identifies creative solutions that everyone can embrace.
  4. Build stronger, more effective teams – If there is an absence of trust and morale is low, people will be focused on selfish interests. This “every man for himself” mentality destroys teams. If you suspect this may be happening then get help to resolve the core issues.
  5. Be authentic and acknowledge vulnerability – If your people don’t believe you are being genuine, honest, and with a high level of integrity, any effort you make to improve morale will be suspect.  Keep this in mind and you will be surprised how quickly you can improve morale and with it, see higher productivity, better employee retention, lower costs, and a happier workplace.

Where is the Starting Line?

This is a time for open candid communications with your employees. Smart business owners will leapfrog this turbulence by recognizing that the invisible elephant in the room is their best opportunity to take ownership of the company culture, and reduce the inherent risks of Bill 148 to their organization. Bring in appropriate expertise and overcome the fallout from Ontario’s labour law changes.


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