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Ontario Introduces the Working for Workers Act, 2021

Published on
October 27, 2021

Yesterday, the Ontario government introduced the Working for Workers Act, 2021, an omnibus bill focused on several labour issues (some of which predate the pandemic and some of which reflect the COVID-19 work environment). As this news continues to dominate the headlines, here is what you need to know about Ontario’s Working for Workers Act, 2021:

- All employers with 25 or more employees, as of Jan. 1 in any given year, will be required to have a written policy about an employee’s right to disconnect from their job at the end of the workday, by March 1 of that year.

  • This so-called “Right to Disconnect” is meant to instill a better work-life balance for Ontario workers. Beyond the need to create a written policy and to ensure that all employees have a copy of this policy, the legislation is not prescriptive about what the policy should contain.

- The banning of non-compete agreements that prevent people from exploring new work opportunities.

- Help remove barriers that deal primarily with Canadian experience requirements for internationally trained individuals to get licensed in a regulated profession and get access to jobs that match their qualifications and skills.

  • This has been a long-standing barrier for skilled immigrants, who often are able to enter Canada on the basis of their professional qualifications but cannot practice their profession once here due to industry requirements.
  • The legislation specifically amends the Fair Access to Regulated Professions and Compulsory Trades Act (FARPACTA) to regulate language proficiency testing requirements and restrict requirements for Canadian experience to instances where such experience is necessary for the purposes of public health and safety.
  • The legislation does not impact health professionals.

- Allow surpluses in the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board’s Insurance Fund to be distributed over certain levels to businesses, helping them cope with the impacts of COVID-19.

- Require recruiters and temporary help agencies to have a license to operate in the province to help protect vulnerable employees from being exploited.

- Require business owners to allow delivery workers to use a company washroom if delivering or picking up items.

- Allow the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs to collect information related to the agri-food workforce to ensure the government can enhance the coordination of service (ex. vaccination and testing).

Many of the proposed changes were informed by the recommendations made by the experts of the Ontario Workforce Recovery Advisory Committee. If the proposed legislation is passed, Ontario would be the first jurisdiction in Canada, and one of the first in North America, to ban non-compete agreements in employment. Amendments made to remove barriers that inhibit employers from access to skilled talent is also worth noting, as this might be useful to various sectors struggling to access skilled talent.

Barring unforeseen events, this Act will be passed before the Legislature rises on December 9, 2021. The amendments to FARPACTA are open to comments until Nov. 22.