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Ontario set to overhaul workplaces with Working for Workers Five Act

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May 6, 2024
By Talent Canada

The Ontario legislature at Queen's Park in Toronto. Photo: Spiroview Inc./Adobe Stock

Ontario is continuing to revamp workplace rules in the province as it unveils the fifth instalment of its “Working for Workers” acts.

This morning, the province unveiled the new changes — touting what it called “first-in-Canada supports and even stronger protections that would, if passed, open pathways into the skilled trades, remove barriers to employment, protect frontline heroes and workers and support women at work.”

Here’s a quick breakdown of the proposed changes, many of which have already been announced.

Open pathways into the skilled trades

  • Building on the successful Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program (OYAP) by creating a new stream, called Focused Apprenticeship Skills Training (FAST), that will allow students in Grades 11 and 12 to participate in more apprenticeship learning through additional co-operative education credits while completing high school. This is part of our government’s plan to ensure all students learn the critical skills necessary to succeed and get well-paying careers in the trades, including receiving hands-on learning experiences and technical skills in the classroom.
  • Making it easier to find apprenticeship opportunities by launching a new online job-matching portal. This will be developed for apprentices, journeypersons and employers to network and share job opportunities.
  • Enabling alternative pathways for people interested in the skilled trades as a second career if they meet alternative criteria, such as prior professional experience, but cannot meet certain academic entry requirements to register as an apprentice. These alternative criteria would be prescribed under future regulations.

Remove barriers to employment

  • Streamlining registration for internationally trained workers and cutting red tape by requiring regulated professions to have a plan for enabling multiple registration processes to take place concurrently wherever possible. If passed, Ontario would be the first province in Canada to require regulated professions to have a plan in place to process registration steps and materials concurrently.
  • Making the foreign credential system outcomes-oriented by requiring regulated professions to have a policy to accept alternatives where standard registration-related documents cannot be obtained for reasons beyond an applicant’s control, such as war or natural disasters. If passed, Ontario would be the first province in Canada to have this legislation.
  • Expanding occupations eligible for the In-Demand Skills stream of the Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program (OINP) and allowing the delegation of internal reviewer decision-making authority to speed up processes within the OINP.
  • Consulting on a new Trusted Employer Model under the OINP to cut red tape and reduce the paperwork burden for reputable businesses.
  • Ontario has delivered on its promise to bring integrated, streamlined and outcomes-oriented employment services to every region in the province, with the confirmation of the province’s final three service system managers (SSMs) for Toronto, Northeast and Northwest Ontario as part of the province’s Employment Services Transformation (EST).

Keep frontline heroes and workers healthy and safe:

  • Improving presumptive coverage to firefighters, fire investigators and volunteers for primary-site skin cancer by lowering the required duration of service 15 years to 10 years, bringing Ontario to the lowest required duration of service in the country.
  • Expanding presumptive coverage for occupational cancers, heart injuries and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) to wildland firefighters and fire investigators to ensure they have the same presumptive coverage as municipal firefighters do.
  • Allowing for electronic copies of the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) to meet posting requirements and allowing joint health and safety committee meetings to be held virtually.
  • Launching a consultation to consider expanding the types of workers who would be presumptively entitled to benefits for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, under the WSIA, to further support workers who may be regularly affected by traumatic situations in their job.
  • Led by the Chief Prevention Officer, reviewing the causes of critical injuries and fatalities in the construction sector, as well as launching a consultation on expanding the types of health and safety equipment to be provided on construction projects, to inform future prevention strategies.
  • Working to prevent future asbestos-related illnesses by incorporating asbestos-related data into the ministry’s forthcoming occupational exposure registry.
  • Putting patients before paperwork and reducing the paperwork burden for healthcare professionals by prohibiting employers from requiring a sick note from a medical professional for a worker’s job-protected sick leave under the Employment Standards Act (ESA). To maintain accountability in the office without creating unnecessary paperwork for healthcare professionals, employers can still request another form of evidence that is reasonable in the circumstances, such as an attestation. Future ministry guidance would be developed to inform this. This complements the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board’s (WSIB) efforts to collaborate with health sector organizations as they explore additional measures to reduce the administrative burden for sick or injured workers and healthcare professionals.
  • The government recently launched a consultation on a new, 27-week, job-protected leave for employees experiencing serious or critical illness, such as cancer, which would matching the federal Employment Insurance sickness benefits. This consultation opened on April 4, 2024, and closes on May 6, 2024, and will be used to inform future strategies to support and protect workers.

Support women at work

  • Requiring menstrual products on construction projects with 20 or more regularly employed workers and where the project is expected to last at least three months. If passed, Ontario will be the first province in Canada to have this policy.
  • Requiring washrooms provided to workers to be clean and sanitary and ensure accountability by maintaining records of cleaning as prescribed by regulations. If passed, Ontario would be the first province in Canada to require a record of cleaning in its health and safety legislation. This is in direct response to advocacy from tradeswomen and other sector stakeholders who have cited better washroom facilities as a key policy to encourage more women to join the building trades, such as in the Ontario Building and Construction Tradeswomen 2022 survey where over half of respondents agreed this would make construction more appealing to women.
  • Modernizing the definition of harassment to include protection against virtual harassment, including virtual sexual harassment, to respond to increasingly digital work practices and reflect the future of work.
  • Launching a consultation with survivors of harassment, legal experts and other stakeholders to identify potential legislative or regulatory changes to create a duty to act for employers where investigations have identified workplace harassment has occurred.

Increase fairness for jobseekers and employees

  • Requiring employers to disclose in publicly advertised job postings whether a position is vacant and respond to applicants they have interviewed for those jobs. If passed, the Ministry would consult with stakeholders to develop an education-first approach to implement these changes.
  • Doubling the maximum fine for individuals convicted of violating the ESA from $50,000 to $100,000, which would be the highest fine in Canada.
  • Making regulatory changes to increase the penalty for repeat offenders who have contravened the same provision of the ESA three or more times from $1,000 to $5,000, one of the highest penalties in Canada.
  • Effective October 1, 2024, Ontario is increasing the minimum wage from $16.55 per hour to $17.20. This 3.9 per cent annualized wage increase is based on the Ontario Consumer Price Index (CPI) and brings Ontario’s minimum wage to the second highest in Canada.


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