On October 25, 2021, the Ontario Government introduced Bill 27, the Working for Workers Act, 2021. If passed, the Bill would implement changes to the Ontario Employment Standards Act, 2000 (the “ESA”)and other legislation impacting employers and employees in Ontario. The most notable changes proposed under the Bill are the following:
- Disconnecting from work policy: Employers with 25 or more employees on January 1 of any year shall be required before March 1 of that year to implement a written policy for all employees with respect to disconnecting from work. “Disconnecting from work” means “not engaging in work-related communications, including emails, telephone calls, video calls or the sending or reviewing of other messages, so as to be free from the performance of work.”
A new disconnecting from work policy, or any changes to an existing policy, must be provided to employees within 30 days of the changes being made. Similarly, new employees must be provided with the written policy with respect to disconnecting from work within 30 days of becoming an employee.
- Prohibition on non-compete agreements: Employers shall be prohibited from entering into employment contracts or other agreements with employees that include a non-compete agreement. If an employer contravenes the aforementioned prohibition, the non-compete agreement will be void.
“Non-compete agreement” means “an agreement, or any part of an agreement, between an employer and an employee that prohibits the employee from engaging in any business, work, occupation, profession, project or other activity that is in competition with the employer’s business after the employment relationship between the employee and the employer ends.
As an exception, the prohibition will not apply in the context where the seller of a business entered into a non-compete agreement with the purchaser and then becomes an employee of the purchaser immediately following the sale.
- Licensing and other requirements for temporary help agencies and recruiters: Temporary help agencies and recruiters will be required to hold licenses to act in their respective capacities. Clients will be prohibited from knowingly using a temporary help agency or recruiter unless the temporary help agency or recruiter has the requisite license. Clients of temporary help agencies and recruiters will also be required to meet certain record-keeping obligations.
Additionally, the proposed changes prohibit a recruiter or person acting on behalf of a recruiter from reprising against prospective employees for reasons that include asking the recruiter to comply with the ESA.
- Limiting Canadian experience requirements for regulated professions: Through changes to the Fair Access to Regulated Professions and Compulsory Trades Act, 2006, Bill 27 proposes to prohibit regulated professions from requiring Canadian experience as a qualification for registration. However, the proposed changes would include the ability for regulated professions to apply for an exemption from this prohibition if they can demonstrate an exemption is necessary for the purposes of public health and safety.
- Distribution of Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (“WSIB”) surpluses: In order to assist businesses with managing the impacts of COVID-19, Bill 27 proposes changes to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, 1997 that would either permit or require the WSIB to distribute amounts in the insurance fund in excess of certain parameters among Schedule 1 employers.
While Bill 27 was carried at First Reading on October 25, 2021, it has not been passed into law and the above changes are not currently in effect. Employers and employees should take note of these proposed amendments in order to anticipate their potential impacts if Bill 27 is passed into law. If you have questions about how Bill 27 may impact your workplace, please contact Madeeha Hashmi at [email protected].