On October 26, 2023, Ontario’s Bill 79, Working for Workers Act, 2023 (Bill 79) received Royal Assent and came into force. The statutes amended by Bill 79 include the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA), the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and the Employment Protection for Foreign Nationals Act, 2009 (EPFNA).
Bill 79 made the following amendments to the ESA:
Expansion of Reservists Leave
Bill 79 expands eligibility for Reservist Leave by providing such leave to recover from a physical or mental health illness, injury or medical emergency that results from participation in a military operation or training. Bill 79 also reduces the eligibility period from three to two months of consecutive employment.
Employees Working in Private Residences Eligible for Enhanced Notice Provided in Mass Terminations (50+ employees)
Bill 79 provides that when determining whether there has been a mass termination (i.e., whether employment of 50+ employees has been terminated) at an employer’s “establishment,” the “location at which the employer carries on business” will include an employee’s private residence provided the employee performs work there and does not perform work at any other location where the employer carries on business.
Bill 79 also provides that in addition to posting a notice of mass termination in the establishment, employers must provide notice to each affected employee.
Licence Application Provisions
Bill 79 amends the licence application provisions in Part XVIII.1 of the ESA (Temporary Help Agencies and Recruiters) to include references to subsection 7(3) of the EPFNA, which prohibits a person acting on behalf of a recruiter from collecting a fee charged by the recruiter in contravention of subsection 7(1). Subsection 7(1) of the EPFNA prohibits recruiters from directly or indirectly charging the foreign national a fee for any service, good or benefit provided to them in connection with their employment.
Authority to Make Regulations
Bill 79 authorizes the government to make regulations to prescribe information that must be provided to “employees and prospective employees” regarding rates of pay, work location and hours of work.
Bill 79 amends the OHSA by increasing the fine for corporations convicted of an offence under the OHSA from $1.5 million to $2 million.
Bill 79 amends the EPFNA to provide that the Ontario Labour Relations Board must reduce the penalty set out in a notice of contravention where certain conditions apply. The Bill also establishes higher maximum fines for a conviction relating to contraventions of subsection 9(1) or (2) of the EPFNA in respect of a passport or work permit. These provisions prohibit employers and recruiters of foreign nationals and persons working on their behalf from taking possession of, or retaining, property the foreign national is entitled to possess, e.g., a passport or work permit.