Bill 27 Ontario: Employer Advice on the Working for Workers Act 2021

  • Legislative updates
Olivia Cicchini

Olivia Cicchini, Employment Law Expert

(Last updated )

Bill 27, Working for Workers Act, 2021, which makes major amendments to the Ontario Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA), passed through the provincial legislature on November 30, 2021. It received Royal Assent on December 2, 2021.

The Working for Workers Act, 2021, which seeks to better support and protect workers in Ontario was first introduced on October 25, 2021.

If you’re an employer covered by the Ontario ESA, you must take note of the changes introduced by Bill 27 and update your employment contracts and company policies accordingly.

Here are some key changes introduced by Bill 27 that affect Ontario employers:

Right to disconnect

Employers with 25 or more staff must have a written policy in regard to employees’ right to disconnect from work. Bill 27 defines disconnecting from work as “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 goal of the Working for Workers Act 2021 is to help workers focus on their mental health and be able to spend quality time with family and loved ones. Small business owners who employ a staff of 25 or more, were required to implement a written disconnecting from work policy at their business by June 2, 2022.

Employers that are required to have a right to disconnect policy must provide a copy of the policy to their staff within 30 calendar days of the policy being developed or when they change or update the policy. The employer must also provide a copy of the right to disconnect policy to any new employees within 30 calendar days of the worker being hired.

To learn more about the requirements for a right to disconnect policy and what it should cover, read our FAQs blog on the right to disconnect.

Prohibiting non-compete clauses in employment contracts

Non-compete agreements in employment contracts prohibit employees from taking up jobs with another business in the same industry for a specified time period after they resign. Bill 27 makes non-compete agreements or clauses illegal for most employees. However, it allows for exceptions, such as in the case of the sale of a business or part of a business. The ban on non-compete agreements also does not apply to executives.

Bill 27 defines an executive 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 any other chief executive position.”

Employers must take note of this amendment to the Ontario Employment Standards Act and update their existing contracts to ensure compliance.

Licensing requirement for recruiters and temporary help agencies

The Working for Workers Act, 2021, introduces licensing requirements for temporary help agencies and recruiters. It also bans employers from intentionally using the services of an unlicensed temporary help agency or recruiter. It also prohibits a recruiter or employer from taking fees from a foreign national in relation with their recruitment or employment.

Those applying for a recruiter license would have to provide a statement that they are aware of this restriction. Violation of this requirement could lead to fines and even denial of the license application.

Lifting barriers for internationally trained professionals

Bill 27 removes Canadian work experience requirements for professional registration and licensing unless an exemption is granted. It also cuts down on duplication of official language proficiency testing. This means people would no longer have to take multiple language proficiency tests for purposes of immigration and professional licensing.

Washroom access for truck drivers and delivery workers

Bill 27 gives couriers, truck drivers, and people who deliver food, the right to washroom access at the businesses where they deliver or pick up delivery items. It does, however, define some situations in which providing access may not be required, such as when it is impractical for reasons relating to health and safety.

WSIB financial relief for businesses

The Working for Workers Act, 2021 amended the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, 1997 (“WSIA”) by allowing the WSIB to distribute surplus amounts in the insurance fund to Schedule 1 employers to assist them overcome the negative financial impact of COVID-19.

Bill 27 states that when the insurance fund meets a sufficiency ratio (calculated by comparing the WSIB’s assets to the total estimated liabilities) that is equal to or greater than 115% and less than 125%, the WSIB may distribute any amount in excess among Schedule 1 employers (employers who must contribute to the insurance fund such as businesses in the construction, manufacturing, and transportation sectors).

The WSIB financial relief ended in June 2021. All businesses that opted for the WSIB financial relief package had until June 30, 2021 to repay deferred amounts, interest-free.

Do you need help staying compliant with the changes brought in by Bill 27?

Our experts can help you develop company policies and support you with any other HRhealth and safety, or employment matters that arise. To learn more about how our services can benefit your business, call an expert today at 1 (833) 247-3652

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