Proposed Ontario Bill Shakes Up Employment Laws

By Roy Maurer Sep 9, 2014

Several workplace laws would change dramatically and employers would face more accountability under a bill currently making its way through the legislature of Ontario, Canada.

The Stronger Workplaces for a Stronger Economy Act was introduced in July 2014 and is currently in second reading debate.

The bill amends the following five statutes:

The Employment Protection for Foreign Nationals Act would apply not just to “live-in caregivers and others” but to all temporary foreign workers in Ontario. This would impact not only foreign guest workers, but employers and recruiters also, said Andrew Bratt, an attorney in the Toronto office of Fasken Martineau. According to Bratt, if the bill is enacted, foreign nationals who are temporarily employed in Ontario would be protected from charges for services or costs incurred by an employer or recruiter unless legally prescribed; from property, passport or work permit retention by an employer or recruiter; and from any reprisals for exercising legal rights.

The Employment Standards Act would be altered in a number of ways. Employers that rely on contingent labor will need to be aware of the amendments to this law especially. Most notably, these employers will be jointly and severally liable, along with the temporary help agency, for any unpaid wages, Bratt said.

The amendments to the Employment Standards Act:

  • Require temporary staffing agencies and host employers to record and keep an hourly work record for every temp worker for three years.
  • Require employers to provide their employees with a copy of the most recent informational poster published by the Ministry of Labour and also to provide available translations of the poster if they are requested.
  • Peg the minimum wage to the Ontario Consumer Price Index. The minimum wage would be announced each year in April and come into force in October.
  • Require employers to conduct self-audits for compliance with the law at the government’s request.
  • Remove the $10,000 cap on wages an employment standards officer could award to an employee owed by an employer.
  • Increase the period of time that an employee may claim wages from six months before the complaint to two years before the complaint.

The Labour Relations Act would be changed to decrease the period that construction trade unions can apply to the Ontario Labour Relations Board for certification or unionized construction industry employees can apply to the board for decertification, from the current three-month window to two months.

The Occupational Health and Safety Act would expand to include protections for those who provide work for an employer for no monetary compensation, such as unpaid interns.

The Workplace Safety and Insurance Act would attribute the costs of temp worker injuries to the host employer, rather than the staffing agency. Lost wages for temporary workers would be assessed on the basis of their income. The bill also calls for employers to provide notice to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board within three days of a temporary worker’s injury, if the worker required health care or is unable to earn full wages.

The bill is still in a deliberative stage, so it is very difficult to predict whether it will survive, Bratt commented.

Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

Follow him at @SHRMRoy

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