On December 4, 2013, proposed legislation was introduced in the Ontario Legislature that, if passed, would make significant changes to Ontario employment law.
The Stronger Workplaces for a Stronger Economy Act, 2013, also known as Bill 146 (the “Bill”), was introduced by the Minister of Labour, Yasir Naqvi , as part of the provincial governments effort to provide increased protection in the workplace. The Bill primarily targets those groups that have traditionally held more limited workplace rights or are seen as particularly vulnerable in the context of the an employment relationship. Some of the groups impacted and the additional protections proposed by the Bill are the following:
- Unpaid interns/students/trainees – The Bill proposes an amendment to the Ontario Health and Safety Act that would expand the definition of ‘worker’ under the act to include interns, students and trainees that perform work for no pay.
- Employees making a claim under the Employment Standards Act (“ESA”) – The Bill proposes that the $10,000 maximum claim amount a worker can be made under the ESA be lifted. The Bill also proposes that the limitation period for an Employment Standards claim be increased to two years (from the current six months).
- Temporary Help Agency employees – The Bill proposes that an employer and agency be made joint and severally liable for any unpaid wages claimed by the worker. Previously a worker could only seek unpaid wages from the employer if it had already exhausted all attempts to recover these wages from the agency. In addition, the Bill states that if a temporary worker suffers a workplace injury, the workplace injury costs and the responsibility to report the injury are to be assigned to the employer, not the agency as is currently the case.
- Unionized Construction Industry employees – The Bill proposes that the construction industries’ ‘open’ period for decertification or displacement application will be reduced to two months; this period is currently three months.
- Foreign Nationals – The Bill proposes that all foreign nationals working or attempting to find work under an immigration or foreign temporary employee program are entitled to the protections under Employment Protection for Foreign Nationals, 2009. These protections are currently only provided to live-in caregivers.
Other general changes include a requirement that employers provide employees with a bilingual information prepared by the Ministry of Labour outlining an employees’ legal entitlements under the ESA, with access to the same information in any of the 23 languages the that the Ministry operates in.
Bill 146 will still need to pass through a second and third reading and is likely to undergo further amendment before, and if, it is ultimately enacted into law. Williams HR Law will provide updates on the status of Bill 146 in this space as it progresses.
This blog is provided as information and a summary of workplace legal issues.
This information is not intended as legal advice.