Ontario Passes the Working for the Worker Act

On November 30, 2021, Ontario officially passed the Working for Workers Act (the “Act”).

On December 2, 2021, the Act received Royal Assent and will effect a number of significant legislative amendments to the Employment Standards Act, 2000 and related legislation.

These amendments include the requirement for certain employers to create a “right to disconnect” policy, the prohibition of the use of non-competition provisions in employment contracts, additional licensing requirements for temporary help agencies and recruiters and the removal of Canadian work experience as a requirement for foreign professional registration and licensing.

Right to Disconnect

Employers which employ 25 or more employees must have a written policy about disconnecting from work, which means “not engaging in work-related communications, including emails, telephone calls, video calls or the sending or reviewing of other messages, so as to be free from the performance of work.” The Act does not currently define the scope or content of this policy; however, it can include, for example, employers’ expectations about response time for emails, or encouraging the use of out-of-office responses when employees are not working.

For transitional and initial compliance purposes, an employer will have six months from the date of Royal Assent to implement a written policy, meaning that employers will have until June 2, 2022 to meet the new requirement. Moving forward, employers, who January 1 of any year, employ 25 or more employees, shall ensure they have a written policy in place by March 1st of that year.

Employers should begin to turn their mind to developing a policy regarding the right to disconnect from work, so they are well prepared. 

Prohibition on Non-Competes

In addition to the right to disconnect, the Act amends the Employment Standards Act, 2000 to prohibit the use of non-compete agreements. No employer will be able to subject employees to a non-compete agreement or provision that restricts the employee from looking for work in a similar or related industry after the employee-employer relationship ends. There are exceptions for the sale or lease of a business as well as "executives," which are defined as any person "who holds the office of chief executive officer, president, chief administrative officer, chief operating officer, chief financial officer, chief information officer, chief legal officer, chief human resources officer or chief corporate development officer, or holds any other chief executive position.”

The prohibition on non-compete agreements does not apply to agreements entered into before October 25, 2021. While this amendment attempts to remove barriers for employees pursuing new career opportunities or advancements, there are many ways for employers to protect their rights through narrower clauses.

Foreign Trained Workers and Temporary Help Agencies

Last, the Act notably makes it easier for many non-Canadian-trained professionals to become licensed in their professions by removing previous Canadian work experience as a requirement for many jobs, unless an exemption is provided by the Minister. The Act also mandates temporary help agencies and recruiters to be licensed in such roles.

If you have questions about the passing of the Working for Workers Act, and what effect this Act has on your employment agreements or HR policies, we encourage you to contact a member of our Labour & Employment group.

If you have any questions about this article, please contact Elliot P. Saccucci or Alessia Grossi.