More changes ahead for Ontario employers: The Working for Workers Act, 2023

6 minute read
03 October 2023


On Sept. 26, 2023, the Ontario government passed its third reading of Bill 79, the Working for Workers Act, 2023, making enactment of this Bill imminent. The Act will impose further amendments to several employment and employment-related statutes.

Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA)

The Bill creates a new section 53.2 under Part 15 of the ESA (Termination and Severance of Employment). With certain exceptions regarding postings for mass terminations, the term "establishment" will retain its existing definition but the term "location at which the employer carries on business" will include a private residence of the employee if the employee performs work in the residence and does not perform work at any other location where the employer carries on business (i.e. fully remote workers). By extension, the Bill amends the mass termination requirements under the ESA such that an employer, including temporary help agencies, must provide notice of termination in a form approved by the Director of Employment Standards to each affected employee.

The Bill amends Reservist Leave under the ESA to provide a leave entitlement for employees who are in treatment, recovery or rehabilitation for a physical or mental health illness, injury or medical emergency that results from their participation in certain activities (e.g. PTSD). Further, an employee's entitlement to Reservist Leave may, in some cases, may be subject to a minimum employment period of two months or greater.

The Bill also makes various amendments to licence application provisions for temporary help agencies and recruiters with respect to the Employment Protection for Foreign Nationals Act, 2009. Lastly, the Bill permits the creation of regulations prescribing written information that an employer must provide to an employee or a prospective employee, and when the employer must provide that information.

Employment Protection for Foreign Nationals Act, 2009

Subsections 9(1) and (2) of this Act contains a prohibition against employers or recruiters of foreign nationals taking possession of any property that a foreign national is entitled to possess, such as a passport or work permit. The propose amendments to this Act will (1) require the Ontario Labour Relations Board to determine whether the penalty for contravention is excessive or punitive in the circumstances, and (2) if so, reduce the penalty.

The Bill also imposes a higher penalty for a person convicted of an offence under subsection 9 (1) or (2) of the Act in respect of a passport or work permit. Upon conviction, a person will be liable (1) to a fine of up to $500,000, imprisonment for a term of up to 12 months, or both if person is an individual; or (2) if the person is a corporation, to a fine of up to $1,000,000.

Occupational Health and Safety Act

The Bill amends this Act to increase the maximum fine for a corporation upon conviction from $1,500,000 to $2,000,000.

Fair Access to Regulated Professions and Compulsory Trades Act, 2006

The Bill makes various amendments this Act, including:

  1. amendments to the definition of "registration";
  2. an amendment respecting the powers under the Act that the Minister may delegate to the Fairness Commissioner or any Ministry-employed person;
  3. an amendment establishing the duty of regulated professions to ensure that Ontarians have access to adequate numbers of qualified, skilled and competent regulated professionals; and
  4. an amendment providing that a regulated profession may accept Canadian experience in satisfaction of a qualification for registration if it also accepts alternatives to such experience that meet prescribed criteria.

Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities Act (MTCUA) and other statutes

The Bill amends section 15 of the MCTUA to permit the Minister to collect, use and disclose personal information, directly or indirectly for:

  1. planning, allocating and administering funding to persons or entities for the purpose of administering or delivering employment programs or services;
  2. detecting, monitoring and preventing any unauthorized receipt of or use of funding; and
  3. conducting research and analysis related to the administration and delivery of Ministry-funded employment programs and services.

The Bill also amends the Ontario Disability and Support Program Act, 1997 and the Ontario Works Act, 1997 to permit the collection and disclosure of personal information by the Minister of Labour in prescribed circumstances.

For more information, please contact the author or a member of the Employment, Labour and Equalities Group.

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