As part of its latest pro-workers push, Premier Doug Ford's government is promising to improve construction-site bathrooms, including by requiring women's-only facilities, to make careers in the trades more enticing.
The bathroom actions planned by the government this summer include necessitating at least one women's-only washroom on job sites, requiring portable toilets to be completely enclosed and have adequate lighting and be equipped with hand sanitizer in the absence of running water, Ministers Monte McNaughton and Charmaine Williams announced on Wednesday.
The government is also "doubling" the number of toilets on job sites, a news release accompanying the ministers' announcement said.
"All too often, I hear from women that this (washroom conditions) is one of the reasons they don't want to work in the skilled trades... To attract more women to the skilled trades, we need to do better, and we will," McNaughton, Ontario's minister of labour, immigration, training and skills development, said at the announcement in London, Ont.
The government is also promising to require construction sites to have adequate personal protective equipment, and work equipment like uniforms, boots and safety harnesses that properly fits women and "workers with diverse body types," a press release accompanying the ministers' announcement said.
"Women belong on our job sites, and they should see themselves reflected in the equipment and clothing available to them," McNaughton said. "This isn't just about safety. It's about sending the message that these jobs are open to both women and men. We need all hands on deck to build our future."
The labour ministry's news release stated that of the nearly 600,000 construction workers in Ontario, only one in 10 are women, adding that its plans are meant to make the skilled trades more accessible to women. It also highlights that Ontario's construction sector is expected to be short 72,000 workers over the next six years.
Williams, Ontario's associate minister of women's social and economic opportunity, said making workplaces "safer and more equitable help increase women's participation in the workforce."
Changes to job site requirements announced by the government on Wednesday will come via regulatory amendments, meaning the government doesn't need to pass new legislation to implement them. It's intending to finalize and enact the promised changes on July 1.
The Ford government has also promised to soon introduce the next in its "Working for Workers" series of bills to better empower employees and other working people.
McNaughton announced on Monday that his forthcoming bill would change the law to see remote workers guaranteed longer notice periods, or pay in lieu of notice, in mass layoffs. Currently, remote workers are treated as "second-class," compared to those who work in-office, McNaughton said. The yet-to-be-introduced change would amend the definition of "establishment" to include employees' remote workspaces under the Employment Standards Act.
The upcoming bill will also require employers to tell employees basic information about their job before they start, like what they're going to be paid, plus how many hours they'll be expected to work, and when.
More still-unannounced pro-worker law changes are expected to be included in McNaughton's next Working for Workers bill as well. The previous two editions were passed in 2021 and 2022, creating a "right to disconnect" for workers, a requirement for employers to disclose electronic monitoring, and the Digital Platform Workers Rights Act, which will give new rights to gig workers once it's brought into force.