New Ontario Legislation Seeks to Protect Vulnerable Workers

On December 4, 2013, the Ontario government proposed new legislation aimed at strengthening workplace protections for vulnerable workers. If passed, the Stronger Workplaces for a Stronger Economy Act, 2013 (the Act) would amend five statutes relating to employment and labour relations in Ontario, including the Employment Standards Act, 20001 and the Occupational Health and Safety Act.2 Among other things, the Act would:

  • eliminate the $10,000 cap on the recovery of unpaid wages in proceedings before the Ministry of Labour;
     
  • increase the period of recovery for unpaid wages in proceedings before the Ministry of Labour to two years (from six and 12 months3);
     
  • require employers to provide employees with a handout containing information about employees’ rights in Ontario;
     
  • make temporary help agencies and their clients (employers) jointly and severally liable for employment standards violations and workplace safety violations;
     
  • prohibit employers and recruiters from charging recruitment fees to temporary foreign workers and seizing their personal documents (for example, passports); and
     
  • extend coverage under the Occupational Health and Safety Act to co-op students and unpaid interns.


There has been no indication as to when the Act will be passed.


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1 S.O. 2000, c. 41

1 R.S.O. 1990, c. O.1

1 Generally, the Ministry of Labour has authority to enforce the recovery of wages due within six months of the date the employee’s claim is filed, subject to two exceptions: (i) unpaid vacation pay may be recovered if the claim is filed within 12 months of the date that the vacation pay came due (rather than six months) and (ii) where an employer is found to have violated the same section of the ESA more than once with respect to an employee, the employee may be entitled to recover wages due for the 12-month period before the claim was issued, if at least one of the ESA violations occurred in the six month period before the claim was filed.

 

 

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