On December 4, 2013, the Ontario Minister of Labour introduced Bill 146, the Stronger Workplaces for a Stronger Economy Act, 2013 designed to protect the province’s most vulnerable workers. If passed, Bill 146 would introduce new legislation to protect all temporary foreign workers working in the province of Ontario, and would amend four other employment and labour statutes. The highlights of Bill 146 are set out below.

Extending the Application the Employment Protection for Foreign Nationals Act

Bill 146 would expand the application of the Employment Protection for Foreign Nationals Act to:

  • Every foreign national who is employed in Ontario or attempting to find employment in Ontario pursuant to an immigration or foreign temporary employee program;
  • Every person who employs a foreign national in Ontario pursuant to an immigration or foreign temporary employee program;
  • Every person who acts as a recruiter in connection with the employment of a foreign national in Ontario pursuant to an immigration or foreign temporary employee program; and
  • Every person who acts on behalf of an employer or recruiter.

This would have the effect of prohibiting employers and/or recruiters from charging any fees, whether directly or indirectly, to foreign workers for recruitment or placement to foreign workers and prohibit them from withholding personal documents, such as passports or work permits.

Bill 146 would also promote outreach to foreign national workers by making the provision of literature outlining their rights mandatory. Furthermore, employers may be required to provide notice to a board or person, to be specified in the regulations, if they employ or cease to employ a foreign national.

These amendments would come into force one year after Bill 146 receives Royal Assent.

Employment Standards Act, 2000

a) Temporary Help Agencies

Many of the amendments concern temporary help agencies, their clients and assignment employees, currently addressed in Part XVIII.1 of the ESA.

Temporary help agencies and their clients would be jointly and severally liable for unpaid wages under the ESA. Specifically, a client of  a temporary help agency could be liable for regular wages, and overtime pay, even though the agency remains primarily responsible. For the purpose of enforcement under the ESA, the client would be deemed to be an employer of the assignment employee.

Temporary help agencies would be required to record the number of hours worked by an assignment employee for each client on a daily and weekly basis. Furthermore, clients of temporary help agencies would also be required to record the number of hours assignment employees work each day and week.

These amendments would come into force one year after Bill 146 receives Royal Assent.

b) Limitation Period and Cap on Orders

The ESA currently contains six month and twelve month limitation periods for various types of claims. Bill 146 would extend those limitation periods to two years.

The ESA currently limits an employment standards officer order for wages to $10,000. Bill 146 would remove that cap, and would expressly provide that there is “no limit” on the amount of an order for wages that an officer could issue.

These amendments would come into force on the day that the Bill receives Royal Assent. However, the “no limit” order would only apply in respect to wages that became due to the employee after the Royal Assent. Wages due at any time before the Royal Assent would still be capped.

c) Miscellaneous

  • Employers would be required to provide each employee with a copy of the Ministry’s most recent poster within 30 days of hire. The current requirement is to post the poster in a conspicuous place.
  • An employment standards officer could require an employer to conduct a “self-audit” of its records or practices, and report the results to the officer. The officer can specify the method of examination, and the format and content of reports.

These amendments would come into force six months after Bill 146 receives Royal Assent.

Occupational Health and Safety Act

The definition of “worker” to whom the OHSA applies would be expanded to include individuals that are currently considered unpaid interns or volunteers not subject to the OHSA:

  • A secondary school student who performs work or supplies services for no monetary compensation under a work experience program authorized by a school board.
  • A person who performs work or supplies services for no monetary compensation under a program approved by a college, university or other post-secondary institution.
  • A person who receives training from an employer, but who, under the ESA, is not an employee for the purposes of the ESA because the conditions set out in subsection 1 (2) of the ESA have been met.

This amendment would come into force on the day Bill 146 receives Royal Assent.

Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, 1997

The WSIA would be amended to add temporary help agencies to experience and merit rating programs under section 83. In particular, if a worker sustains an injury while working for another employer (i.e. client) that participates in the experience and merit ratings program, the WSIB can: (a) deem total wages paid to the worker to have been paid by the client (b) attribute the injury and accident costs from the injury to the client and (c) increase or decrease the client’s premiums based on the frequency of work injuries, accident costs, or both. These clients must notify the Board within three days of learning of an injury to a worker that necessitates health care or reduces a worker’s wages.

This amendment would come into force on a day to be proclaimed.

Labour Relations Act, 1995

Bill 146 would provide for two-month open periods during which: (a) a trade union may apply to the Ontario Labour Relations Board (the “Board”) for certification, and (b) employees may apply to the Board for a declaration that a trade union on longer represents them.

These amendments would come into force six months after Bill 146 receives Royal Assent.

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