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Ontario Bill 27: What Employers Need to Know About the Working for Workers Act 2021

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Bill 27, Working for Workers Act, 2021, which proposes major amendments to the Ontario Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA), passed through the provincial legislature on November 30. It received Royal Assent on December 2, 2021.

The Working for Workers Act, 2021, which seeks to better support and protect workers in the province was first introduced on October 25, 2021.

If you’re an employer covered by the Ontario ESA, you’ll be required to take note of the changes coming into effect and update your contracts and policies accordingly.

Here are some key changes affecting employers:

Right to disconnect

Employers with 25 or more staff must have a written policy in regard to employees’ right to disconnect from work. The Act defines disconnecting from work as “not engaging in work-related communications, including emails, telephone calls, video calls or the sending or reviewing of other messages, so as to be free from the performance of work.”

The goal of the Working for Workers Act 2021, is to help workers focus on their mental health and be able to spend quality time with family and loved ones. However, the Bill does not lay out guidelines on what must be covered in such a policy and whether any employees could be exempted from it. Small business owners who employ a staff of 25 or more have six months from the date Bill 27 received Royal Assent (December 2, 2021) to comply with the new changes.

Prohibiting non-compete clauses in employment contracts

Non-compete agreements in employment contracts prohibit employees from taking up jobs with another business in the same industry for a specified time period after they resign. Bill 27 makes non-compete agreements or clauses illegal for most employees. However, it allows for exceptions, such as in the case of the sale of a business or part of a business. The ban on non-compete agreements also does not apply to executives.

Bill 27 defines an executive as “any person who holds the office of chief executive officer, president, chief administrative officer, chief operating officer, chief financial officer, chief information officer, chief legal officer, chief human resources officer or chief corporate development officer, or any other chief executive position.”

Employers must take note of this impending amendment to the Ontario Employment Standards Act and update their existing contracts to ensure compliance.

Licensing requirement for recruiters and temporary help agencies

The Working for Workers Act, 2021, introduces licensing requirements for temporary help agencies and recruiters. It also bans employers from intentionally using the services of an unlicensed temporary help agency or recruiter. It also prohibits a recruiter or employer from taking fees from a foreign national in relation with their recruitment or employment.

Those applying for a recruiter license would have to provide a statement that they are aware of this restriction. Violation of this requirement could lead to fines and even denial of the license application.

Lifting barriers for internationally trained professionals

Bill 27 removes Canadian work experience requirements for professional registration and licensing unless an exemption is granted. It also cuts down on duplication of official language proficiency testing. This means people would no longer have to take multiple language proficiency tests for purposes of immigration and professional licencing.

Washroom access for truck drivers and delivery workers

Bill 27 gives couriers, truck drivers, and people who deliver food the right to washroom access at the businesses where they deliver or pick up delivery items. It does, however, define some situations in which providing access may not be required, such as when it is impractical for reasons relating to health and safety.

WSIB financial relief for businesses

Ontario’s Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) has already cut premium rates for 2022 by $168 million. Bill 27 offers a further financial boost for employers by allowing for a portion of the WSIB’s current reserve funds to be distributed to safe employers.

The Ontario government is also proposing to allow the WSIB to work with the Canada Revenue Agency to streamline remittances for business. This would lower administrative costs by giving businesses an effective way to submit payroll deductions.

To save businesses from having to pay thousands in additional premiums, the Ontario government is capping the growth of premiums to an increase of 3.2% through a new regulation under the Workplace Safety and Amendment Act.

Do you need help staying compliant with the new ESA provisions?

Our experts can help you develop company policies and support you with any other HR, health and safety, or employment matters that arise. To learn more about how our services can benefit your business, call an expert today at 1 (833) 247-3652.