Working for Workers Act, 2023: Ontario Introduces Bill 79

Working for Workers Act, 2023: Ontario Introduces Bill 79

The Working for Workers Act was first introduced in 2021 as the act that provided employees with the right to disconnect from work, and this year, new developments have been presented in March 2023. Bill 79, Working for Workers Act, 2023 proposes changes to the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA) and other laws governing the employer-employee relationship that employers will be responsible to uphold if passed.

The government of Ontario has suggested the following changes

There will be further changes to reservist leave which is the right for reservists to take an unpaid leave of absence from their employment or military educational programs. First, this bill suggests broadening the scope of worker who may take this leave of absence to also include anyone working in the military who requires treatment, recovery, or rehabilitation or has an illness, injury, or medical emergency caused from an event serving as a Canadian Reservist. Second, the Ontario government also suggests that reservists can take a leave of absence once employed for at least two months.

Bill 79 also presents some changes to the laws governing Mass Terminations. In the provision outlining mass terminations, Bill 79 has modified the word “establishment” to mean anywhere the employer conducts business, including private residences. The purpose of this change is so that remote workers are accounted for if they have been involved in a mass termination. This specification is important, as this bill proposes the ESA should increase the minimum termination notice (or pay in lieu of notice) if 50 or more employees were all terminated in a four-week period, which would now include any full-time remote workers.

Further, employers are now responsible to create a Form 1 that will be provided to each employee on the first day of their notice period with the following characteristics: written with an explanation regarding the mass termination, delivered to a Director of Employment, and posted somewhere visible in the workplace.

Bill 79 advances changes to the OHSA by announcing they want to increase the damages employers owe if they violate the OHSA. This bill suggests increasing the damages to $2 million dollars in monetary fines.

This bill also increases fines if the laws governing the Employment Protection for Foreign Nationals Act (EPFNA) are defied. The government of Ontario suggests that if an employer is guilty of possessing or keeping a foreign national’s passport or work permit, they will be sanctioned with a fine of up to $500,000 or imprisoned for twelve months. If a corporation is guilty of this act, they could be responsible for paying a fine up to $1 million.

If Bill 79 is passed, employers will be responsible for changing any policies or procedures to reflect these new regulations. If you require adaptations to any of your workplace policies and procedures, please contact KCY at LAW by filling in an online consultation request or contact us by phone at 905-639-0999 to book your consultation today.