Ontario’s Bill 79, the Working for Workers Act, 2023 received Royal Assent on October 26, 2023. Since becoming law, new obligations have been imposed on employers throughout the province, while employees’ rights have been expanded.

This blog will provide a high-level overview of these rights and obligations introduced by the Working for Workers Act, 2023 as it has amended the Employment Standards Act, the Occupational Health and Safety Act, and the Fair Access to Regulated Professions and Compulsory Trades Act, among other pieces of provincial legislation. Employers must be aware of these new requirements and ensure that they are compliant with the new legislation.

Amended Legislation Imposes New Obligations and Increased Fines Against Employers

The Working for Workers Act, 2023 has amended several critical areas for employees and employers across Ontario. It also highlights additional initiatives impacting much of the province’s workforce. Some of these vital points are outlined in further detail below.

Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) Offences

Under the Working for Workers Act, 2023, corporations convicted of an offence under the Occupational Health and Safety Act will see an increase in maximum fines from $1,500,000 to $2,000,000. However, it is essential to note that corporations alleged to have committed a violation before October 26, 2023 will not be subject to this increased penalty. This increase comes after a recent maximum fine increase in 2022, which saw the maximum fine for individual corporate officers and directors increase from $500,000 to $1,500,000.

Group Terminations

The new legislation has amended the Employment Standards Act by expanding the definition of an “establishment” of employment to include employees who work from their private residence (also known as “fully remote employees”). This provides fully remote employees with the same entitlements and protections as employees who work at an employer’s physical location.

As such, fully remote employees are now entitled to the same notice requirements or pay in lieu of notice in cases of mass terminations. Now, when an employee terminates a group of employees within a four-week period, the employer is obligated to provide:

  • 8 weeks of termination notice if 50-199 employees are terminated, regardless of the individual employee’s length of service with the employer,
  • 12 weeks of termination notice if 200-499 employees are terminated, or
  • 16 weeks of notice if 500 or more employees are terminated.

Military Reservist Leave

Previously, military reservists were only permitted to take reservist leave after three consecutive months of employment. Under the new law, military reservists will be granted entitlement to reservist leave (to participate in military skills training or deployment) after two consecutive months of employment. In emergency operations, reservist leave may be granted at any time.

Further, military reservists will be entitled to take leave from work if they are in recovery, treatment, or rehabilitation to recover from mental or physical injuries resulting from their participation in reservist activities.

Protection for Temporary Foreign Workers

The Working for Workers’ Act, 2023 will strengthen protections for temporary foreign workers by increasing fines against employers or other entities convicted of withholding a foreign national’s work permit or passport. The new law has established Canada’s highest maximum fines for those convicted of these offences.

Removing Barriers for Internationally Trained Professionals

The Working for Workers’ Act, 2023 has also amended the Fair Access to Regulated Professions and Compulsory Trades Act to remove employment and qualification barriers for internationally trained professionals looking to enter the Ontario workforce. This amendment imposes an obligation on regulated professions to consult with the government to ensure an adequate number of skilled, competent and qualified regulated professionals working in Ontario as a matter of public interest. Regulated professions are now required to accept “alternative to Canadian experience” when considering an applicant’s registration.

Additional Proposed Amendments in the Working for Workers Four Act, 2023

Additional employment laws were introduced in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario through Bill 149, the Working for Workers Four Act, 2023, on November 14, 2023. These proposed changes include:

  • Requiring employers to disclose salary ranges in job postings and banning employers from requiring “Canadian work experience” in job postings;
  • Prohibiting employers from conducting unpaid “trial shifts” for new restaurant and hospitality workers, barring employers from reducing employee wages for dining and dashing or other stolen property; and
  • Enabling “super indexing” increases to Workplace Safety and Insurance Board benefits beyond annual inflation rates.

Willis Business Law: Providing Trusted Guidance on Employment Law Changes to Windsor-Essex Employers

At Willis Business Law, our labour and employment law lawyers help employers navigate the ever-changing landscape of federal and provincial workplace laws. By helping you understand your obligations as an employer and updating workplace policies, our employment law team can help you mitigate compliance risk and future disputes. We also help employers assess existing workplace health and safety procedures to minimize the risk of workplace incidents and claims. In the event of a dispute, we represent employers and ensure their rights are protected throughout the dispute resolution process and litigation when necessary.

Located in downtown Windsor, Willis Business Law works with clients in Windsor-Essex County and the surrounding regions. To learn more about how we can help you, reach out to us online or call us at 519-945-5470 to schedule an initial consultation with a member of our employment law team.

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