Information contained in this publication is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or opinion, nor is it a substitute for the professional judgment of an attorney.
On March 20, 2023, Ontario introduced Bill 79, Working for Workers Act, 2023 for First Reading. Bill 79 contains amendments to the province’s Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA), Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA), and Employment Protection for Foreign Nationals Act, 2009 (EPFNA).
Bill 79 proposes to amend ESA provisions pertaining Reservist Leave by:
- Expanding the leave’s scope to entitle an employee who is in treatment, recovery or rehabilitation in respect of a physical or mental health illness, injury or medical emergency that results from participation in certain operations or activities to reservist leave; and
- Reducing the period of consecutive employment to qualify for reservist leave from three months to two months.
Definition of “Establishment”
Bill 79 proposes to amend the definition of “establishment” in subsection 1(1) of the ESA by providing that the phrase “location at which the employer carries on business” includes the employee’s private residence if they perform work in their private residence and the employee does not perform work at any other location where the employer carries on business. As a result of this amendment, upon the occurrence of a mass termination, an employer would be required to provide the same enhanced notice to employees who work exclusively from home that it would be required to provide to employees who work on site.
Employer’s Obligation Regarding Form 1
Bill 79 proposes to amend the ESA to provide that an employer required to give notice of a mass termination must:
- Provide to the Director of Employment Standards a Form 1, which contains required information; and
- On the first day of the notice period, post the Form 1 in its establishment and provide the prescribed information in Form 1 to each affected employee.
Bill 79 provides that these amendments to the ESA pertaining to mass terminations would come into force on the later of July 1, 2023, or the day Bill 79 receives Royal Assent.
Information to be Provided to Employees or Prospective Employees
In its March 13 announcement, Ontario indicated that a regulatory change would be proposed requiring employers to provide new hires with information in writing about their jobs, such as pay, work location and hours of work, and the date by which that information must be provided. Bill 79 does not establish such a requirement; however, it would amend the ESA to provide the government with authority to make regulations prescribing the information that must be provided to employees or prospective employees, such as the information referred to above.
Licensing Requirements for Those Recruiting or Assisting with the Recruitment and Employment of Foreign Nationals
Bill 79 proposes to amend the ESA by strengthening the licensing requirements for recruiters of foreign nationals and for third parties who help with the recruitment of foreign nationals. The amendments specifically target license applicants who have charged a fee to a foreign national or collected such a fee in contravention of the EPFNA.
Bill 79 provides that, except where otherwise provided, amendments to the ESA would come into force on the day the Working for Workers Act, 2023 receives Royal Assent.
Bill 79 proposes to amend OHSA by increasing fines for corporations convicted of an OHSA offence from $1.5 million to $2 million, and provides that this proposed amendment would come into force on the day that Bill 79 receives Royal Assent.
Bill 79 proposes to amend the EPFNA to significantly increase maximum fines for individuals and corporations convicted of taking possession of or retaining a foreign national’s passport or work permit, in contravention of the statute. If the convicted person is an individual, pursuant to the Bill 79 amendments they would be liable for a maximum fine of $500,000, or imprisonment for a maximum term of 12 months, or both. If the convicted entity is a corporation, it would be liable for a maximum fine of $1 million.
Bill 79 also proposes to amend the EPFNA to permit the Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB) to determine whether the penalty is “excessive in the circumstances or is, by its magnitude, punitive in nature having regard to all the circumstances.” Should the OLRB make such a determination, the Bill 79 amendments provide that the OLRB must amend the notice of contravention by reducing the penalty.
Bill 79 provides that these proposed amendments would come into force on the day Bill 79 receives Royal Assent.
We will follow Bill 79 as it makes its way through the legislative process and report on significant developments.