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Navigating Bill 190: Key Implications of Ontario’s Working for Workers Five Act, 2024

5 minute read
Also authored by: Katherine Duffy

The Government of Ontario tabled Bill 190, the Working for Workers Five Act, 2024, on May 6, 2024 (Bill 190). Bill 190 proposes a significant overhaul of existing labour legislation in Ontario, including amendments to Ontario’s Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA), the Fair Access to Regulated Professions and Compulsory Trades Act, 2006 (FARPCTA), and the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA).

As the fifth bill in a series of legislation safeguarding workplace protections for employees, Bill 190 seeks to further strengthen these protections and expand employment opportunities. If passed, Bill 190 would introduce several ground breaking initiatives in Ontario.

Here’s a brief overview of Bill 190’s proposed changes.

Proposed Changes to the ESA

  • Larger penalties: The maximum fine for individuals found violating the ESA would double, from $50,000 to $100,000. This increase will make the fine the highest of its kind in Canada.
  • Tackling candidate "ghosting": Employers conducting interviews for publicly advertised roles would be required to provide candidates with specific information post-interview. However, the requirements for the content of the post-interview information have not yet been determined.
  • Transparency in job postings: Employers would be mandated to disclose whether the position advertised is currently unfilled in public job advertisements.
  • Abolishing mandatory doctor’s notes: Employers would be prohibited from requiring employees to provide a certificate from a healthcare professional for job-protected sick leave shorter than three days.

Proposed Changes to FARPCTA

  • Mandatory alternatives to qualification documentation policy: Bill 190 would mandate regulated professions to establish a policy regarding acceptable alternatives to qualification documentation that applicants would otherwise need to submit along with their application.
  • Multiple registration processes plan: Regulated professions would be required to implement plans that allow for multiple simultaneous registration processes whenever feasible.

Proposed Changes to OHSA

  • The OHSA would apply to remote work: The OHSA would apply to teleworking in private residences, but exclude such offices from an "industrial establishment" definition, meaning that an employee who works from home would not be considered to work in an industrial establishment.
  • Expanded definitions of workplace and sexual harassment: The OHSA’s workplace harassment definitions would be broadened to explicitly encompass virtual harassment via technology.
  • Employers may post OHSA-required information electronically: Employers may post OHSA-required information online so long as it is in a readily accessible format and they inform workers of where the information is and how to access it.
  • Joint health and safety meetings may be held remotely: The requirement for joint health and safety committee meetings to be conducted solely in the workplace would be removed, allowing remote meetings.
  • Enhanced washroom regulations: Employers, including constructors, would be required to maintain clean washroom facilities, with prescribed cleaning records and potentially additional requirements, although those have not yet been set.

Other Initiatives Proposed by Bill 190

  • Progressive amendments to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, 1997: Bill 190 would amend this Act to decrease the minimum service duration for firefighters, fire investigators, and volunteers to qualify for primary-site skin cancer coverage from 15 years to 10 years, making it the shortest requirement in Canada. Furthermore, wildland firefighters and fire investigators would receive equivalent presumptive coverage for occupational cancers, heart injuries, and post traumatic stress disorder as municipal firefighters.
  • Supporting women on construction sites: The Government filed O.Reg 194/24 amending O.Reg 213/91 (Construction Projects) made under the OHSA the same day Bill 190 was tabled. If successful, these amendments would require that employers supply menstrual products on construction sites employing at least 20 workers for projects lasting three months or longer.
  • Creating opportunities in the skilled trades: Bill 190 would amend the Building Opportunities in the Skilled Trades Act, 2021 to allow regulations to provide alternative criteria instead of requiring applicants to meet certain academic standards typically needed for an apprenticeship training agreement. The bill would also introduce the Focused Apprenticeship Skills Training (FAST) program, enabling high school students to pursue apprenticeship training while completing their regular studies.
  • Increased minimum wage: The minimum wage would increase from $16.55 to $17.20 per hour, making Ontario’s minimum wage the second highest in Canada, behind the Yukon.

Key Takeaways

The pioneering amendments in Bill 190 aim to enhance safety, transparency, and efficiency within Ontario’s employment sector. However, employers may face challenges while implementing these new changes. The proposed disclosure obligations for job postings mean employers must review their job posting procedures to ensure compliance with new legislation. Employers will also need to reassess their procedures for validating sick leaves shorter than three days, relying on "evidence reasonable in the circumstances" to grant the leave.  Additionally, accommodating multiple registration processes could require operational adjustments and investments in technology and infrastructure. Employers may need to invest in training and education programs to ensure that managers and employees understand their rights and responsibilities under the new legislation, particularly regarding workplace harassment and discrimination. Failure to comply with the new requirements could expose employers to legal risks, including increased fines and penalties for violations of worker rights or safety standards.

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