Recently the Government of Ontario re-introduced legislation to amend various employment-related statutes: Bill 18, Stronger Workplaces for a Stronger Economy Act, 2014 (formerly Bill 146 – the Stronger Workplaces for a Stronger Economy Act, 2013). Bill 146 “died” on the order paper when the provincial parliament was dissolved but with the Liberals securing a clear majority it is likely that Bill 18 will be passed. Employers who use temporary help agencies really need to pay attention to the impact of some of these changes.
Changes such as the indexing of the minimum wage, the removal of the maximum amount that an employee can go after for back wages and the associated appeal time limits being increased from 6 month to 2 years as well as others changes will add to the risks of carrying on business in Ontario. If passed, the employer will be jointly and severally responsible to ensure that the temporary employees are paid. While the temporary employees would go after the agency first, they can also go after the client employer. This would mean that even if the client had paid the Agency, they could be forced to pay the wages a second time as the client would be seen as the employer.
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The Client will also have to effectively maintain what amounts to “payroll” records for the temporary workers for a period of 3 years. The record of hours worked must be readily available in the event of an ESA enquiry.
As if those changes were not enough, there is also the potential that the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board will assign workplace injury and accident costs to temporary help agency clients when an employee is injured while performing work for the agency’s client. It appears that if a temporary employee is injured, then the wages will be attributed to the client employer and the client takes over the management of the claim. They would “increase or decrease the amount of the other employer’s premiums based upon the frequency of work injuries or the accident costs or both”. This could lead to significant cost increases in managing the temporary worker as well as ensuring that the “temp” is suitable for the work being performed..
In addition to increasing the administration and business risks for the employers of Ontario, it would appear that these changes may potentially damage the conscientious temporary help agencies while allowing the “fly-by-night” agencies to escape their responsibilities
With these changes, Bill 18 will have the potential to significantly change the employment arrangements for thousands of employers and many more workers. At the very least, employers must ensure that they are dealing with reputable temporary help agencies and be prepared to work within the employment law framework themselves.
Author: Mike Morawiec, HR Director, PIVOTAL HR Solutions