The Ontario government has introduced far-reaching new workplace legislation this week called the Working for Workers Act, 2023.
Particularly, these changes would establish the highest maximum fines in Canada for business or individuals who are convicted of withholding a foreign worker’s passport or work permit. Individuals could end up on the hook for a $100,000 to $200,000 penalty for every worker who had their passport or work permit withheld. That means that if an employer has been found to be withholding documents from multiple foreign workers, the fines could cumulatively be in the millions of dollars. To understand just how drastic of a change this is, the current fines only range from $250 to $1000.
The Working for Workers Act, 2023, would also make the following changes if passed:
- Increase protections for temporary foreign workers by establishing the highest maximum fines in Canada for employers who are convicted of taking possession of or holding a foreign worker’s passport or work permit.
- Increase the maximum fine that may be imposed on a corporation convicted of an offence under the Occupational Health and Safety Act from $1.5 million to $2 million. This would result in Ontario having the highest maximum corporate fine for these type of offences in Canada.
- Include employees who work remotely in the count for mass termination provisions in order so that these remote workers receive the same eight (8) week minimum notice of termination or pay-in-lieu as in-person employees do.
- Allow military reservists to have job protected leave when the employee may need additional time off to recover from physical or mental injuries.
- Ensure that employers are required to provide employees with information about their new job (such as pay, work location and hours of work) before the employee’s first shift.
- Remove barriers facing internationally trained professionals when those individuals seek registration in regulated professions in Ontario.
- Remove barriers for women in the construction industry by ensuring that they have access to women’s only washrooms on jobsites and properly fitting safety equipment like boots and safety harnesses.
- Expand WSIB coverage for firefighters to include thyroid and pancreatic cancers.
To be clear, the Working for Workers Act, 2023, follows the Working for Workers Act, 2022 and 2021.