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Ontario passes ‘historic’ Working for Workers Act

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April 8, 2022
By Talent Canada

(Adobe Stock)

Ontario has passed its new workplace legislation, the Working for Workers Act, 2022. It is now in front of the Lieutenant Governor awaiting royal assent.

Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development, called the legislation “historic” and a “significant win” for workers.

“It is another step forward in our fight to rebalance the scales, put more workers in the driver’s seat of their careers, and help all families earn bigger paycheques,” he said.

Gig economy, WFH protections

Ontario is the first province in Canada to pass foundational rights and protections for hardworking people who provide ride-share, delivery, or courier services through digital platforms, he said.

“There is no blueprint in Canada for these changes, and gig workers in Ontario will be significantly better off than their counterparts in any other province,” said McNaughton.

“Our workers-first plan to build stronger families also requires larger employers to disclose how they are monitoring their workers electronically. With more people in Ontario than ever before working from home, families deserve to know if, how, and why their employers are monitoring their devices so they can protect their privacy.”

Naloxone mandates

The province is also mandating that workplaces with a risk of opioid overdoses have naloxone kits on site. It previously said that high-risk workplaces include bars, night clubs and construction sites. But the language in the act seems more broad, and targets workplaces that reasonably ought to have known an overdose could occur on the premises.

“The employer shall ensure that, at any time there are workers in the workplace, the naloxone kit is in the charge of a worker who works in the vicinity of the kit and who has received the training described (in the legislation),” it reads.

OHS fines

“We are also increasing Ontario’s occupational health and safety fines to be the highest in Canada for businesses that fail to keep workers safe,” he said. “Every worker deserves to come home to their family after a hard day’s work, and safety can never be a cost of doing business.”

The maximum fine for directors and officers is skyrocketing to $1.5 million, a fifteen-fold increase from the current maximum for individuals. Other individuals are subject to a maximum fine of $500,000, which is five times higher than the current maximum. The maximum fine for corporations is also $1.5 million.

In addition, there is a maximum jail sentence available of up to 12 months, unchanged from the current law. The limitation period is also being doubled to two years.

The province is also defining “aggravating factors” for the purposes of determining a penalty. These factors include:

  • The offence resulted in the death, serious injury or illness of one or more workers.
  • The defendant committed the offence recklessly.
  • The defendant disregarded an order of an inspector.
  • The defendant was previously convicted of an offence under this or another Act.
  • The defendant has a record of prior non-compliance with this Act or the regulations.
  • The defendant lacks remorse.
  • There is an element of moral blameworthiness to the defendant’s conduct.
  • In committing the offence, the defendant was motivated by a desire to increase revenue or decrease costs.
  • After the commission of the offence, the defendant, i.  attempted to conceal the commission of the offence from the Ministry or other public authorities, or ii.  failed to co-operate with the Ministry or other public authorities.
  • Any other circumstance that is prescribed as an aggravating factor.

Labour shortages

McNaughton also said the legislation contains changes to make it easier for out-of-province workers to move to Ontario.

“Finally, for our brave military reservists who put their lives on hold to protect our great country, we are making sure their day jobs will be waiting for them when they return home after being deployed or participating in military training,” said McNaughton.

“Everything our government is doing is about building an economy that works for workers. These generational changes are the first of their kind – not only in Canada but across North America. They build on measures we passed last fall through our first Working for Workers Act, which is already changing lives and improving working conditions for millions of workers and their families.”

Read the full text of the act at https://www.ola.org/en/legislative-business/bills/parliament-42/session-2/bill-88

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