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Introduced in Ontario last month, the Stronger Workplaces for a Stronger Economy Act, or Bill 18, would make sweeping changes to a number of laws including the Employment Standards Act (ESA), the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act (WSIA).

Resulting changes would potentially alter business models for temporary help agencies and their clients. In addition, employers would expect to see higher value, more complex wage claims being determined and litigated.

Here’s a snapshot of proposed changes under Bill 18:

Minimum Wage Increases

Bill 18 suggests a new framework for minimum wages established under the ESA. Related adjustments would be tied to Ontario’s Consumer Price Index.

  • The government would publish the new minimum wage rates by April 1 of each year and the new rates would take effect October 1.
  • The ESA would be amended to require a review of minimum wage rates and the annual review process at least once every five years.

Wage claims under the ESA also would be increased as Bill 18 would significantly amend two existing limitations:

  • The current 6-month/12-month time limit would be replaced by a single two-year time limit.
  • The current $10,000 cap on wage orders would be eliminated.

These changes would enable much larger wage claims to be processed under the ESA, potentially including claims for unpaid bonuses and other contractual entitlements.

Shared Liability for Temp Agencies and Clients

Bill 18 would change the temporary help industry in Ontario by establishing shared agency/client liability for certain wages and workplace injuries.

  • The new law would create joint liability for regular wages and overtime pay earned by assignment employees during each pay period that they supplied services to agency clients. Primary responsibility would rest with the agency, but a claim against the client could proceed before proceedings against the agency were exhausted. The ESA would be further amended to require both the agency and the client to maintain records of assignment employee hours.
  • If an assignment employee was injured while working for a client, Bill 18 would shift the full cost of the resulting compensation claim to the client. A reporting obligation would be placed on the client, as well as the agency, under the WSIA and the client would be required to notify the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board within three days of learning of the injury.

An Expanded Definition of “Worker”

For OHSA purposes, Bill 18 would establish an expanded definition of “worker” to include several classes of unpaid employees, namely:

  • Those who perform work or supply services for monetary compensation.
  • College, university or secondary students in authorized work experience programs, even if they do not receive monetary compensation.
  • Trainees who meet ESA section 1(2) conditions.

These workers would be owed the same duties and granted the same rights and obligations as paid workers, including the right to stop work where there is a danger to health and safety.

Additional provisions of Bill 18 apply to ESA posters in the workplace, expanded protection for foreign workers in Ontario, and an amendment of the Labour Relations Act for those in the construction industry.

Watch for further updates from Employment Professionals Canada on this and other business and government developments that may impact your workplace. Stay current as part of your ongoing hiring and business success strategy!


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