Bill 148 set to shake up temporary work rules

Ontario’s new workplace law could force a big change in the way companies use temporary workers, Toronto employment lawyer Miriam Anbar tells The Lawyers Daily.

As the article notes, Bill 148, the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, 2017, is currently progressing its way through Ontario’s legislature, having reached second reading.

If it passes in its current form, the new law would force employers to provide equal pay to employees of temporary agencies who perform “substantially the same work” as those on the full-time payroll.

Anbar, an associate with Rodney Employment Law, explains to the legal news service that there are generally three reasons companies use temporary employees: to avoid unionization; to save on benefits, compensation and insurance; and to shift responsibility for workers to a temp agency.

“If Bill 148 passes, there will be a significant impact on all these areas,” Anbar says. “It will definitely impact the way many companies practice.”

Anbar says she advises companies to reduce their reliance on agency workers:

“If companies are using temporary employees to supplement their workforce, that’s fine, the problem arises when they use temporary workers to substitute their workforce,” she says.

For those who don’t, the new legislation presents risks.

“It will be easier to unionize, it will cost companies more because of the regulations on equal pay,” she says. “The companies will have to share responsibility [for workers] with temporary agencies.”

Anbar says hiring more full-time workers may pay off in the long-term for employers because they offer less visible benefits, such as higher engagement and productivity levels.

“Although on the surface it seems the costs will be higher, I think the way we’re trying to communicate these changes to our clients is there may be more benefits for the business, and it may be more beneficial for the business if we delve deeper into those intangible advantages,” she says.

The Lawyers Daily reports that provincial Labour Minister Kevin Flynn has described the rise in temporary employment in Ontario as “alarming,” and wants to see the trend away from full-time hiring reversed. Anbar says he has several options to get to his goal.

“The Employment Standards Act (ESA) might seek to put a timeline on how long one can stay as a temporary employee,” she says. “If someone is working for six months or more, they effectively turn into a permanent employee, or their compensation will change, or they should be transferred to a different job opening if there’s one available.”

Anbar says the government’s new focus could spell bad news for temp agencies, predicting some will have to close in the coming years.

“If there are legislative requirements about how to use temporary agencies and they’re burdensome enough, it may be too difficult for them to remain operating,” she says.

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