Legislative Changes in Ontario to Protect Foreign Workers

January 15th, 2016 by

By Michelle Stephenson

As of November 20, 2015, changes to Ontario’s employment laws came into effect with the aim of better protecting precarious and foreign workers.

The Employment Standards Act, 2000 has been amended to allow individuals who have been hired through a temporary agency to recover unpaid wages from the agency as well as the agency’s client’s business. Previously, businesses that used temporary help agencies did not have any liability for unpaid wages to workers employed through the agency.

Additionally, coverage under the Employment Protection for Foreign Nationals Act, 2009 has been extended to foreign nationals employed or seeking employment in Ontario through an immigration or foreign temporary employee program. The Act initially applied only to the employment of foreign live-in caregivers. Employer recruiters of all workers now covered by the Act will no longer be allowed to charge fees for recruitment, placement costs or other benefits. Recruiters and employers will also be restricted from taking or keeping these foreign workers’ property, such as passports and work permits.

These legislative changes follow the Stronger Workplaces for a Stronger Economy Act, 2014, which has already implemented an increase in minimum wage to $11.25 per hour, a requirement for employers to supply employment standards information, a removal of the cap of recoverable unpaid wages, and an extension of the time to recover unpaid wages to two years.

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