The Stronger Workplaces for a Stronger Economy Act, 2014 received Royal Assent on November 20, 2014, amending five employment and labour statutes, including the Employment Standards Act, 2000, the Labour Relations Act, 1995, and the Occupational Health and Safety Act. This posting reviews some highlights of the amendments.

Employment Standards Act

As of February 20, 2015, the maximum amount an employment standards officer may order for unpaid wages will no longer be capped at $10,000 per employee. The new section 103(4.1) under will impose no limit on the amount an officer may order.

New self-auditing requirements under will come into force on May 20, 2015. An employment standards officer may require an employer to conduct an examination of the employer’s records and/or practices to determine compliance with the Act or regulations. Subsequent reporting obligations depend on the type of infractions discovered, if any.  This new power will be in addition to employment standards officers’ current inspection, investigation, and enforcement powers.

As of November 20, 2015 clients of temporary help agencies will be deemed to be employers of assignment employees. In this vein, orders issued against them by employment standards officers will be treated as orders against employers. Moreover, as deemed employers, clients will share joint and several liability with agencies for assignment of employees’ unpaid wages.

Clients of temporary help agencies will also have new record-keeping obligations respecting the number of hours worked by each assignment employee. These records will need to be retained for three years and made available to employment standards officers when requested upon inspection.

As well, Employers will be required to provide each employee with a copy of the most recent  informational poster published by the Minister of Labour, and Ministry-prepared  translations of such posters (if any), if  requested by the employee.

Labour Relations Act

Two pertinent changes for the construction industry will come into effect on May 20, 2015 affecting the construction industry. Where a trade union and an employer have entered into a collective agreement, another trade union may apply to the Board for certification as bargaining agent during a specified two-month open period. The commencement of this period depends on the term of the existing collective agreement.

A separate two-month period will be available to employees to apply to the Board for a declaration that the trade union no longer represents them as bargaining agent. The timing of this two-month open period will also depend on the term of the collective agreement.

Occupational Health and Safety Act

Employers’ obligations to workers under the OHSA will have a broader scope as of November 20, 2014 with the substitution of a new definition of “worker”. Prior to this change, only persons who worked for monetary compensation qualified as “workers”. The current more comprehensive definition includes persons who do not receive monetary compensation—namely, volunteers, secondary school students working under approved work experience programs, persons working under non-compensatory programs approved by a post-secondary institution, and persons who do not qualify as “employees” under the ESA but receive training from an employer. The definition also encompasses “such other persons as may be prescribed who perform work or supply service for no monetary compensation”.