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New legislation on vulnerable workers

vulnerable workersAs of November 20, 2014, Ontario gave royal assent and have passed the Stronger Workplace for a Stronger Economy Act, otherwise known as Bill 18. This Act certifies that vulnerable workers, such as unpaid workers, or temporary workers, receive proper training and protection in order to lower the amount of workplace deaths or injuries among these workers. During an inspection, 42 percent of businesses with internship programs broke employment laws by not providing minimum wage or vacation/holiday pay. It was also discovered that co-op and intern students weren’t being given proper Health & Safety training or training with equipment or Personal Protective Equipment (PPE); if the students refused unsafe work (as is every other workers’ right), it would end the program and they would lose their credit. Ontario decided it was time for a change and Ontario is now one of the only provinces to protect unpaid workers in the Occupational Health & Safety Act (OHSA), along with Quebec and Saskatchewan.

What the Stronger Workplace for a Stronger Economy Act does is provides additional support for vulnerable workers. It does this by tailoring a number of Ontario’s employment and labour statutes to suit the needs of vulnerable workers. The Stronger Workplace for a Stronger Economy Act also instates a borderline for the maximum amount of work an individual can do without being paid, even if they’re doing it willingly. It also corrects several definitions and adds definitions and terms.

The people covered by the Stronger Workplace for a Stronger Economy Act are unpaid workers and foreign workers, but what exactly qualifies one as a legally unpaid worker? How unpaid internships can be made legal is having training is similar to that of a high school, the training is directly for the worker and the employer derives no benefit from the worker during the training; the worker is not given the right to become an employee of the person providing the training, however if the worker wishes to become an employee, they may apply for a position as anyone else may. The exception is that the ESA doesn’t apply to interns or co-op students, and minimum wage is not required to be paid to a student who is working under a program provided from a secondary school board, a college of arts and technology, or a university.

Here are some of the fine points of Bill 18:

  • The cap for unpaid wage claims under the Employment Standards Act (ESA) has been eliminated
    • No longer a $10,000 cap on unpaid wages
    • Six (6) month limit for wage claims replaced with a two (2) year limit.
  • Minimum wage will now be tied to the Consumer Price Index (CPI). New minimum wage rates to come into effect on October 1 will be posted by April 1 of year.
  • Temporary help agencies and their clients (the employer) will not be held jointly and severally liable under the Employments Standards Act (ESA)
    • Both the temporary help agency and their clients are now required to record the number of hours worked by the employee and retain this information for three (3) years.
  • The new ESA poster “What You Should Know” now not only needs to be posted in a conspicuous location, but also needs to be provided to each employee, current or new.
  • The Employment Standards officers now have the power to request an employee conduct a self-audit on the ESA standards. Enforcement may occur as a result of the findings of the self-audit.
  • Definition of “worker” under the Occupational Health & Safety Act (OHSA) has been expanded to include individuals who are performing unpaid work, like secondary school students or unpaid interns.

Bill 18 may only cater to a specific group of people; however, it will affect many others due to needing to accommodate the new amendments.

Read the Stronger Workplaces for a Stronger Economy Act here.

Beyond Rewards Inc

Human Resources and Risk Management Consultants and Training Provider at Beyond Rewards Inc
Beyond Rewards is a boutique firm offering a full suite of Human Resource, Safety, Workplace investigations, Accessibility Standards and Risk Management solutions, online training programs and customized face to face training for our clients. Several exceptional expert consultants led by Lynne Bard, HBa, CHRP, CES, President/Senior Consultant,will be blogging regularly on First Reference Talks on behalf of Beyond Rewards Inc. Read more here.

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