The Act to amend the Act respecting labour standards and other legislative provisions (the bill) was tabled by the liberal government at the National Assembly at the end of March. Several provisions of this bill will have an impact on the businesses of personnel placement agencies. Here is our take on these issues.

In a nutshell

Simply put, in addition to establishing the principle that agency employees may not be remunerated at a lower rate of wage than that granted to the employees of the client enterprise, the bill requires personnel placement agencies and recruitment agencies for temporary foreign workers to hold a licence and provides for the implementation of regulations concerning such agencies. Enterprises that retain the services of such an agency that does not hold a licence will be liable to a penal sanction. In addition, personnel placement agencies and the client enterprises that retain their services will from now on be solidarily liable to an employee for the pecuniary obligations fixed by the Act respecting labour standards.

Details

i) Wages

First off, the bill provides that no placement agency may remunerate an employee at a lower rate of wage than that granted to the employees of the client enterprise who perform the same tasks in the same establishment solely because of the employee’s employment status, and in particular because the employee is remunerated by such an agency or usually works fewers hours each week.

ii) New Government regulation

By regulation, the Government will define what constitutes a personnel placement agency and a client enterprise.

In addition, such a personnel placement agency will henceforth have to hold a valid licence issued by the CNESST, in accordance with governmental regulation. A client enterprise may not knowingly do business with an agency that does not hold a licence issued by the CNESST. Anyone who contravenes these new obligations will be liable to a fine of $600 to $6,000 and, for any subsequent conviction, to a fine of $1,200 to $12,000.

The Government will also regulate on the different classes of licences and on the period of validity of each class of licence – administrative measures will be prescribed if these conditions are not complied with. If a person believes he has been wronged by a decision rendered under this new regulatory framework, he may, within 30 days of notification of the decision, contest it in writing before the TAT.

iii) Solidary liability

The bill specifies that from now on, a personnel placement agency and a client enterprise are solidarily liable to an employee for the pecuniary obligations fixed by the Act respecting labour standards. As a consequence, each of the agency and the client enterprise may be liable to pay the entire amount awarded should an agency employee’s claim be granted before the TAT.

Coming into force of these amendments

The bill needs to go through the legislative process at the National Assembly before coming into force. At this stage, with the provincial election expected early next fall, it is hard to predict whether this will happen before or after said election, if at all. In any case, the bill provides that the proposals affecting the regulatory aspect of personnel placement agencies will come into force not on the date of coming into force of the bill itself, but rather on the date of coming into force of the relevant regulation to be adopted by the Government.

Another important point to note is that management side representatives, including several Norton Rose Fulbright lawyers in the province, are currently getting organized and will ensure that their point of view on these important amendments and their potential consequences is heard loud and clear. The text proposed in the bill is therefore not a final version.

If you are interested in learning more about other amendments included in the bill, please click on this link to read our Legal update.

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