On December 4, 2013, the Ontario government introduced new legislation to protect workers and employment standards, titled Bill 146. If passed, Bill 146, the Stronger Workplaces for a Stronger Economy Act, would remove the $10,000 Order to Pay cap under the Employment Standards Act, 2000; create joint and several liability for unpaid wages between temporary agencies and client employers, require employers to perform ESA compliance audits and extend the Occupational Health and Safety Act to apply to co-op students, trainees and unpaid interns.
Other significant changes under Bill 146 include amending the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act to assign a worker’s injury costs to client employers of a temporary help agency rather than the temporary help agency.
Bill 146 amendments to Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA)include:
- Removing the $10,000 Order to Pay cap on the recovery of unpaid wages (including termination and severance pay).
- Increasing the time limit for a claim for wages from six- months (twelve-months for vacation or recurring violations) to 2 years.
- Directing an employer to complete an ESA compliance audit of their records and practices to determine if the employer has complied with part or all of the ESA. An employment standards officer would be able to require the audit by providing the employer with written notice. The written notice may specify that an employer produce a report and indicate whether it has complied with the ESA.
- Requiring employers to provide a copy of the most recent ESA poster to employees within 30 days of their hire. Upon request, the employer would be required to provide the poster in one of 23 other languages.
- Introducing ‘joint and several liability’ between temporary help agencies and their client employers for unpaid wages (including overtime, termination and severance pay).
- Requiring both the client employers and temporary help agencies to keep records on hours of work.
Bill 146 would amend the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) to extend the application of OHSA to co-op students, trainees, learners and interns regardless of whether they are paid monetary compensation.
Bill 146 would also amend the Employment Protection for Foreign Nationals Act to cover all employees who come to Ontario under a temporary foreign employee program. The amendment would prohibit employers from charging fees for recruitment and placement, as well as prohibit employers from withholding personal documents such as passports.
Bill 146 would also amend the Labour Relations Act to decrease the construction industry’s open period from three months to two months.
For more information about Bill 146 or employment standards, contact DSF Employment Lawyer Michael P. Farace at 416-446-5094.