In A Flash

Ontario Announces Working for Workers Five Act

On May 6, 2024, the Government of Ontario announced that it will be introducing the Working for Workers Five Act (the “Act”), building on four previous Working for Workers Acts.

The Act, if passed, would introduce further proposed amendments to several workplace laws which would create further protections for workers in Ontario, as well as further obligations for employers, including:

1. Enhanced protections for women in the workplace

Ontario is providing enhanced protections for women in the workplace by:

  • Requiring menstrual products on construction projects with 20 or more regularly employed workers and where the project is expected to last at least three months;

  • Requiring washrooms provided to workers to be clean and sanitary and requiring that records of cleaning must be maintained;

  • Modernizing the definition of “harassment” to include protection against virtual harassment, including virtual sexual harassment; and

  • Launching a consultation with survivors of harassment, legal experts and other stakeholders to identify potential changes to create a duty to act for employers where investigations have identified that workplace harassment has occurred.

2. Removing barriers to employment for internationally-trained or credentialed workers

Ontario is also facilitating the employment of internationally-trained or credentialed workers by:

  • Requiring regulated professions to have a plan for enabling multiple registration processes to take place concurrently wherever possible;

  • Requiring regulated professions to have a policy to accept alternatives where standard registration-related documents cannot be obtained for reasons beyond an applicant’s control, such as war or natural disasters;

  • Expanding occupations eligible for the In-Demand Skills stream of the Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program (OINP) and allowing the delegation of internal reviewer decision-making authority to speed up processes within the OINP; and

  • Consulting on a “Trusted Employer Model” under the OINP to reduce the paperwork required by reputable businesses.

3. Enhanced support for injured workers

Building on previous changes and announcements on presumptive entitlement under the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act (the “WSIA”), Ontario is providing enhanced support by:

  • Improving presumptive coverage to firefighters, fire investigators, and volunteers for primary-site skin cancer by lowering the required duration of service to 10 years;

  • Expanding presumptive coverage for occupational cancers, heart injuries, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) to wildland firefighters and fire investigators so they have the same presumptive coverage as municipal firefighters;

  • Allowing for electronic copies of the Occupational Health and Safety Act (the “OHSA”) to meet posting requirements and allowing joint health and safety committee (JHSC) meetings to be held virtually;

  • Launching a consultation to consider the types of workers who would be presumptively entitled to benefits for PTSD under the WSIA;

  • Led by the Chief Prevention Officer, reviewing the cause of critical injuries and fatalities in the construction sector, and launching a consultation on expanding the types of health and safety equipment to be provided on construction projects;

  • Prohibiting employers from requiring a sick note from a medical professional for a worker’s job-protected sick leave under the Employment Standards Act (the “ESA”) (note that employer can still request another form of evidence that is reasonable in the circumstances, such as an attestation); and

  • Launching a consultation on a new, 27-week, job-protected leave for employees experiencing serious or critical illness (such as cancer), which would match the federal Employment Insurance sickness benefits.

4. Further changes to the ESA

Also included are further changes to the ESA (read our previous coverage here), including greater disclosure in publicly advertised job postings and increased fines for violations:

  • Requiring employers to disclose in publicly advertised job postings whether a position is vacant and respond to applicants they have interviewed for those jobs;

  • Doubling the maximum fine for individuals convicted of violating the ESA from $50,000 to $100,000, which would be the highest fine in Canada; and

  • Increasing the penalty for repeat offenders who have contravened the same provision of the ESA three or more times from $1000 to $5000.

Additional announcements include opening pathways into the skilled trades by: creating the Focused Apprenticeship Skills Training (FAST) stream under the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program (OYAP), that will allow students in Grades 11-12 to participate in more apprenticeship learning through additional co-operative education credits; launching a new online job-matching portal to make it easier to find apprenticeship opportunities; and enabling alternative pathways into the skilled trades as a second career for people who meet alternative criteria (such as prior professional experience) but cannot meet certain academic entry requirements to register as an apprentice.

These proposed changes have not yet been passed into law. Some of the proposed changes will be subject to consultations, and others are to be clarified by regulations. We will continue to provide updates as details emerge regarding upcoming changes.

If you have any questions about this topic or any other questions relating to workplace law, please do not hesitate to contact a Mathews Dinsdale lawyer.

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