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Dec 4, 2013

Ontario's labour ministry bolsters protection for vulnerable workers

Companies to become jointly liable for Employment Standards Act violations
    
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Ontario’s labour ministry plans to tighten its wage and safety protections for temporary foreign workers.

Introduced by labour minister Yasir Naqvi on Dec. 4, the Stronger Workplaces for a Stronger Economy Act would create strict rules and enforcement measures to protect vulnerable workers – and make both companies and temporary agencies liable for Employment Standards Act violations.

That includes prohibiting employers from charging fees and seizing personal documents (think passports) from temporary foreign workers by expanding the Employment Protection for Foreign Nationals Act to include all foreign workers entering the province under an immigration or temporary foreign employee program.

As well, the bill would eliminate the $10,000 cap on the recovery of unpaid wages and increase the recovery period from six and 12 months to two years for employees – which would keep disputes out of the courtroom, saving workers and management time and money.

Under the new legislation, temporary help agencies and clients will also be liable for employment standards violations in order to decrease the number of companies hiring individuals solely to work in unsafe conditions.

The number of inspectors and inspections will also get a boost.

“Our government is standing up for workers and increasing fairness for business with this bill,” Naqvi said. “It’s about taking action to protect the most vulnerable workers and level the playing field for employers who play by the rules because we know that these are the building blocks of stronger workplaces, a stronger economy and a stronger Ontario.”

Since 2008, the number of temporary foreign workers in Ontario has jumped from 91,000 to 120,000 in 2012.

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