The Working for Workers Act, 2023 receives Royal Assent

Those who take advantage of vulnerable workers could face millions in fines.

The Working for Workers Act, 2023 recently received Royal Assent, which means that Ontario now has the highest maximum corporate fine under workplace health and safety legislation in Canada.

In March 2023, the Ontario government announced a new legislation that amended the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OSHA) to increase the maximum fine for corporations convicted of an offence under the OHSA from $1.5 million to $2 million.

“Anyone who preys on vulnerable members in our community has no place in our society,” said Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development back in March. “If you think you’re going to deny someone’s basic human rights by withholding their passport, we’re going to hit your pocketbook, and you will be behind bars for a long time. We will continue to use every tool in our toolbox to ensure Ontario is a province where hard work pays off and big dreams come true.”

There have been several revisions to Ontario employment legislation now that the act has received Royal Assent to keep in mind.

Most notably, increased fines are now the highest in Canada. These changes, which came into effect on October 26, 2023, include a maximum fine $1,500,000 to $2,000,000 for a violation of the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA). The maximum penalties under the Employment Protection for Foreign Nationals Act, 2009 have also been increased for employers who are convicted of withholding a work permit or worker passport.

Employees will now have the eligibility for enhanced notices for mass termination that those who work in offices are entitled to under Ontario’s Employment Standards Act (ESA). There has also been an ammendment to the definition of “establishment” which now includes employees’ homes as opposed to only locations where employers carry out business.

In terms of new hires, the Lieutenant Governor in Council is now able to make regulations under the ESA which requires employers to provide employees details about their positions in a written format. For recruiters, licensing requirements in terms of compliance with the Employment Protection for Foreign Nationals Act, 2009, have also become more strict and includes refusals to either issue or renew them in cases where the applicant has failed to comply with this act.

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