The Ontario government is taking measures to protect temporary help agency employees and increase their opportunities to find permanent work.
The government introduced amendments to provisions in the
Employment Standards Act
governing the more than 1,000 temporary help agencies that operate in Ontario. The amendments, if passed, will include protections for low-income workers by:
•Making sure they are not unfairly prevented from accessing permanent jobs when employers want to hire them from agencies.
•Prohibiting temporary help agencies from charging fees to workers for things such as resumé writing and interview preparation.
•Guaranteeing that employees have the information they need about their assignments including pay schedules and job descriptions.
•Ensuring employees have access to information about their rights under the
Employment Standards Act
During consultations on work through temporary help agencies, concerns were raised that temporary agency employees face barriers to permanent employment, such as fees charged to clienct businesses for hiring agency employees full-time, contract rules that prevent agency employees from being hired by client businesses and prohibitions on client businesses from providing reference letters for agency employees.
The proposed amendments would prohibit agencies from imposing these types of barriers that prevent or discourage client businesses from hiring “temps.” Any provisions in temporary help agency contracts with employees or clients that contravene the new amendments would be void upon the enaction of the amendments.
Agencies would also be required to provide certain information to employees, such as:
•The agency’s name and contact information as soon as possible after the agency enters into an employment relationship with the employee.
•An information sheet prepared by the Director of Employment Standards on the employee’s rights.
•The name and contact information of the client business when offering a work assignment, as well as wages, benefits, hours of work, pay schedule and a general description of the work to be performed.
Client businesses will also be prohibited from engaging in reprisals against temporary employees who assert their employment standards rights. Currently, there are no protections from reprisals by client businesses because they are not considered to be the employers — the agencies are.
Ontario has already passed a regulation that ensures “elect-to-work” employees will have the same rights to public holiday entitlements as other workers. Many temporary help agency employees have been considered to be “elect-to-work” since they could choose to accept or refuse an agency assignment without any negative consequences. However, this exempted them from full public holiday entitlements and termination and severance requirements. This regulation comes into effect on Jan. 2, 2009. If the proposed temporary worker legislation passes, “elect-to-work” exemptions regarding termination and severance will be revoked.
The proposed amendments are part of Ontario’s Poverty Reduction Strategy, which aims to remove barriers to permanent employment and protect employment rights of vulnerable workers.
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