To ensure temporary employment agencies/temporary help agencies are in compliance with the Employment Standards Act (ESA), the Ontario Ministry of Labour announced on Friday June 8, 2012, a three-month inspection blitz of temp agencies running from June 2012 until the end of August.
According to the ministry, there are nearly 1,000 temp agencies that operate in Ontario, and about 735,000 people in Ontario work in temporary jobs. Many of these temporary workers are employed by temp agencies. In May 2009, Ontario passed legislation to ensure that temporary help agency employees are being treated fairly. The Employment Standards Amendment Act (Temporary Help Agencies), 2009 affirmed that these workers are covered by the Employment Standards Act. The Act also does the following:
- Makes sure that temporary workers are not unfairly prevented from being hired directly by employers
- Prohibits temporary help agencies from charging fees to workers for things such as résumé writing and interview preparation
- Guarantees that employees have the information they need about their assignments, including pay schedules and job descriptions
- Requires agencies to provide employees with information about their rights under the ESA
The inspections will ensure compliance with minimum standards under the ESA (rules related to minimum wage, hours of work, eating periods, overtime pay, vacation time and pay, public holidays, statutory leaves, etc.), as well as:
- Requiring employers to display employment standards information in the workplace (e.g., that ESA poster my fellow blogger Earl talked about recently)
- Requiring employers to issue complete wage statements and maintain records
- Prohibiting unauthorized deductions (e.g., for cash shortages or theft by others)
- Prohibiting agencies from charging illegal fees to employees
- Providing mandatory information to employees
If your temp agency is chosen for an inspection, the MOL says you will receive a notice of inspection, which will indicate the date and time of the visit as well as the records you will be required to produce. The required records and documents may include a list of employees with particular contact information, certain information about employee’s positions, timesheets/schedules, payroll records, copies of pay stubs, proof that the required information was provided to employees, etc.
The Employment Standards Officer that visits your organization will discuss compliance with the Employment Standards Act, and review records and interview employees to ensure compliance with the provisions of the ESA and its related regulations.
In the event that a contravention of the ESA is identified during an inspection visit, enforcement action will be taken as appropriate. These may include a ticket, an order to comply, among others. Additionally, you will be provided with information on resources to help you comply with the ESA.
Is this new?
The Ministry of Labour, through its Employment Standards Program:
- Enforces the ESA and its regulations
- Provides information and education to employers and employees, making it easier for people to understand and comply voluntarily
- Investigates possible violations
- Resolves complaints
This inspection blitz is part of the ministry’s strategy of targeted proactive inspections across multiple sectors. The ministry’s proactive enforcement strategy focuses on targeting specific industry sectors where there is a history of employment standards violations, where young or vulnerable workers are employed and where large or increasing portions of the Ontario workforce are employed.
Sectors identified for targeted proactive inspection across Ontario in 2012–13 include:
- Auto mechanics
- Building services, including security, parking, cleaning and food services
- Car dealerships
- Fast food restaurant franchises
- Gas stations
- Hospitality, including hotels, motels, housekeeping cottages, cabins, bed and breakfasts, RV parks and camps
- Private schools, including elementary through high school, business, secretarial, computer, trade or technical training and ESL/language
- Temporary help agencies
Temporary help agencies will be the first sector that the ministry will visit as part of its new sector-based inspections plan.
What can temp agencies do if an inspector comes knocking at the door?
Since 2010, about 150 temp agencies have been inspected through the ministry’s regular Employment Standards Program, resulting in 115 orders issued to employers. About $170,000 was recovered on behalf of 3,000 employees in Ontario.
Even if you know you are in compliance, now is the time to conduct a self-audit of your workplace records, posting requirements, employee handbook and policy manual to ensure you have met the minimum standards and are in compliance.
If you need help, here are some First Reference solutions.
First Reference Human Resources and Compliance Managing Editor