The Ontario government is introducing changes to continue leading the country in providing ground-breaking protections for workers. These proposed changes expand on the ground-breaking actions in the Working for Workers Acts, 2021 and 2022, which are already helping millions of people in Ontario.
Today, the government intends to introduce the Working for Workers Act, 2023, that would, if passed:
- Make Ontario’s job-protected leave for military reservists the most flexible and comprehensive in all of Canada. This will allow reservists to have their job protected when they are deployed to emergency operations inside Canada even if it’s their first day at a new job, reduce the length of employment required for all other reasons from three months to two months, and expand the reasons for taking reservist leave to include where the employee may need additional time off to recover from physical or mental injuries.
- Increase the maximum fine that may be imposed on a corporation convicted of an offence under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) from $1.5 million to $2 million. This would give Ontario the highest maximum corporate fines under workplace health and safety legislation in Canada, build on changes announced in the Working for Workers Act, 2022, and reinforce the importance of putting worker safety first and further penalize employers that treat injuries as the cost of doing business.
- Give greater certainty to employees starting a new job by proposing regulatory changes to require employers provide employees with information about their job, such as pay, work location and hours of work, and the date by which that information needs to be provided (e.g., before their first shift).
- Include employees who work solely from home in the count for mass termination provisions to ensure that remote employees receive the same eight-week minimum notice of termination or pay-in-lieu as their in-office colleagues.
- Strengthen protections for temporary foreign workers by establishing the highest maximum fines in Canada for employers and people who are convicted of taking possession of or retaining a foreign national’s passport or work permit.
- Continue to advance international credential recognition, by introducing further measures to help remove barriers facing internationally trained professionals when seeking registration in regulated professions in Ontario, which includes clarifying that a regulated profession can only accept Canadian experience in satisfaction of a qualification for registration if it also accepts alternatives that meet certain criteria.
The government is also proposing to remove barriers for women in the construction sector by introducing new regulatory amendments that will make the skilled trades more accessible to women by ensuring they have access to at least one women’s-only washroom on jobsites and properly fitting equipment such as uniforms, boots and safety harnesses.
In addition, the Ontario government is making it easier for firefighters, fire investigators and their families to get access to Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) compensation by proposing to expand presumptive cancer coverage for firefighters to include thyroid and pancreatic cancers.
The government is also preparing students to enter the skilled trades faster by allowing students in Grade 11 to transition to a full-time skilled trades apprenticeship program. After receiving their certificate of Apprenticeship, these young workers can apply for their Ontario Secondary School Diploma as mature students.
The government will consult with employers, unions, education stakeholders, trainers, parents, and others on ways to make it easier for young people to enter the skilled trades. This includes the potential of lowering entry requirements for some skilled trades that currently require a Grade 12-level education.