On March 13, 2023, the Ontario Government announced proposed changes to the mass termination provisions of the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (“ESA”), concerning notice for workers whose employment is severed as part of a mass termination. These proposed changes – discussed in greater detail in a previous In A Flash article here – were announced as part of a larger package that expands on the employee protections provided by the Working for Workers Acts, 2021 and 2022.
On March 20, 2023, the Government introduced further proposed amendments through the Working for Workers Act, 2023, which would, if passed, contain further protections for workers in Ontario, including:
1. Increased fines for withholding worker passports
The proposed changes, if passed, would establish 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. Offenders could face a $100,000 to $200,000 penalty for every worker whose rights are violated.
Ministry officers would be granted the power to levy penalties for each passport or work permit a business or person withholds. In addition to these per-passport penalties, individuals convicted of withholding passports would be liable to either a fine of up to $500,000, up to 12 months imprisonment, or both. Corporations convicted would be liable to a fine of up to $1 million.
2. Increased fines for convictions under the Occupational Health and Safety Act
Ontario is also proposing amendments to the Occupational Health and Safety Act (“OHSA”), which would increase the maximum fine for corporations convicted of an offence under the OHSA from $1.5 million to $2 million. This would give Ontario the highest maximum corporate fine under workplace health and safety legislation in Canada. Last spring, the government raised fines for individuals to a maximum of $500,000 and up to a maximum of $1,500,000 for corporate directors (discussed in greater detail here).
3. More flexible job-protected leave for military reservists
The proposed amendments would provide for job protection for military reservists while they are deployed to emergency operations inside Canada even if it is their first day at a new job. The proposed amendments would also 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.
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.
The Firm gratefully acknowledge the assistance of Selina Habib, an Articling Student in the firm’s Toronto office.