On October 26, 2023, the Working for Workers Act, 2023 received Royal Assent in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. This bill introduces several revisions to the Employment Standards Act, 2000, and other legislation relating to Ontario employees’ rights, expanding on previous changes from the Working for Workers Act, 2021, and the Working for Workers Act, 2022.

Additionally, the Legislative Assembly of Ontario recently announced it is considering Bill 149, the Working for Workers Four Act, 2023, which, if assented to, will bring further changes to Ontario’s employment law landscape.

This blog will provide a high-level overview of the recent employment law changes arising out of the Working for Workers Act, 2023, and the Working for Workers Four Act, 2023. It will also highlight key components that employers and employees need to know.

What Will the New Employment Laws Do for Ontarians?

Like previous interactions of the Working for Workers Acts, the Working for Workers Act, 2023 covers several critical areas for Ontario employees and raises other vital initiatives relating to the well-being of Ontario’s workforce. Some of the important points for employers and employees to be aware of are detailed below.

Information for New Employees

The Working for Workers Act, 2023 proposes regulatory changes that will require employers to provide specific information to new employees about their job. Specifically, these changes will require employers to provide new employees with written information regarding their position, including pay, location of work, and hours of work along with the date by which that information must be provided to the new employee (for example, before their first day of work).

New Mass Termination Requirements

Fully remote employees will now be included in mass termination provisions. In other words, remote employees will receive the same minimum notice of termination, or pay-in-lieu for termination, as employees who work in office.

Special rules apply for notice of termination when 50 or more employees are terminated by an employer within a four-week period. An employer is required to provide:

  • 8 weeks’ notice (or pay in lieu) if 50 to 199 employees are terminated,
  • 12 weeks’ notice (or pay in lieu) if 200 to 499 employees are terminated, or
  • 16 weeks’ notice (or pay in lieu) if 500 or more employees are terminated.

These changes ensure that fully remote employees are included in the calculation of terminated employees for mass terminations and receive the same notice as office-based employees.

Increased Fines for Occupational Health and Safety Act Offences

Corporations convicted of offences under the Occupational Health and Safety Act relating to workplace safety may be required to pay a fine. The new employment laws raise the maximum fine that can be imposed in these situations from $1.5 million to $2 million, making Ontario’s corporate occupational health and safety fines the highest in the country. These fines are intended to reinforce the importance of worker safety and impose harsher penalties on employers who disregard it.

Increased Fines for Retaining Passports or Work Permits of Foreign Nationals

The new employment laws also strengthen protection for temporary foreign workers, establishing Canada’s highest maximum fines against employers or other individuals convicted of withholding a foreign national’s passport or work permit.

Changes to Military Reservist Leave

Military reservists have traditionally been granted entitlement to reservist leave (leave for deployment or military skills training) after three consecutive months of employment. Changes enacted by the Working for Workers Act, 2023 will shorten the length of employment required to two months, or any time if they are deployed for emergency operations inside Canada.

The new employment laws also allow military reservists to take reservist leave to recover from physical or mental injuries.

Other Proposed Changes for Ontario Workers

In addition to the changes outlined above, the Ontario government is proposing additional changes for the Ontario workforce, as follows:

Removing Barriers to Women in the Construction Sector

The Ontario government intends to introduce new regulatory amendments that ensure construction job sites include access to at least one women’s-only washroom and properly fitting safety equipment. These amendments are designed to make skilled trade positions more accessible for women.

Expanding Compensation for Firefighters and Fire Investigators

The Ontario government plans to expand cancer coverage for firefighters. These changes will make Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) compensation claims extend to thyroid and pancreatic cancers and will be retroactive to January 1, 1960.

Preparing Students to Enter the Skilled Trades Faster

The Ontario government will allow students in Grade 11 to begin full-time skilled trades apprenticeship programs, after which they will be eligible to apply for an Ontario Secondary School Diploma as “mature students.” These changes will also potentially lower the entry requirements for skilled trades requiring applicants to have a Grade 12 education.

New Employment Laws: Working for Workers Four Act, 2023

On November 14, 2023, more new employment laws were introduced in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario through Bill 149, the Working for Workers Four Act, 2023. While the Ontario government is still considering these proposed changes, they will, if assented to, do the following:

  • Require employers to disclose salary ranges in job postings and confirm whether employers are using artificial intelligence during the hiring process;
  • Ban unpaid “trial shifts” for new restaurant and hospitality workers, and reduce employee wages for dining and dashing or other stolen property;
  • Ban employers from requiring Canadian work experience in job postings; and
  • Enable “super indexing” increases to Workplace Safety and Insurance Board benefits above annual inflation rates.

More information on the proposed changes can be viewed on the Ontario government’s Working For Workers Four Act, 2023 page.

Final Thoughts on Ontario’s New Employment Laws

With the Working for Workers Act, 2023 receiving Royal Assent and the Working for Workers Four Act, 2023 being considered in the Ontario Legislature, the Ontario government is introducing several changes to protect prospective and current employees better. With these changes, employees will receive heightened protections in several key areas, and certain employees will benefit from increased access to leave and benefits.

Both employees and employers must familiarize themselves with these changes and consider how the proposed changes under the Working for Workers Four Act, 2023 may impact their rights and obligations. If you have questions or concerns about how these changes affect you as an employee, or your obligations as an employer, speak with an experienced employment lawyer.

Contact the Labour and Employment Lawyers at Grosman Gale Fletcher Hopkins LLP for Advice on Compliance With Employment Legislation

The knowledgeable Toronto employment lawyers at Grosman Gale Fletcher Hopkins LLP remain on top of legislative amendments within Ontario in order to provide clients with knowledge and comprehensive advice. We help employers remain on top of their obligations under the ever changing employment laws, while aiding employees in understanding and asserting their rights in the workplace. To schedule a confidential consultation with our employment law team, contact us online or at 416.364.9599.