New obligations for temporary help agencies in Ontario

September 16, 2009

The Ontario legislature has passed the Employment Standards Amendment Act (Temporary Help Agencies), 2009, which amends the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (the Act) to include specific obligations for temporary help agencies with respect to their employees. The following highlights some of the key provisions in the amendments.

The amendments define "Assignment Employees" as individuals employed by a temporary help agency for the purpose of being assigned to perform work on a temporary basis for clients of the agency. The amendments clarify that the temporary help agency is in fact the employer of the Assignment Employees and that Assignment Employees do not cease to be employees of the agency because they have been assigned by the agency to perform work for a client on a temporary basis, or because they are not assigned to perform work for a client.

Among the obligations imposed on temporary help agencies is the requirement to provide certain information to its Assignment Employees. Assignment Employees must be provided with contact information for the agency, information about work assignments, including the client's contact information, hours of work and hourly wages associated with the assignment and a general description of the work to be performed. In addition, the temporary help agency must provide Assignment Employees with copies of the Ministry of Labour publications regarding rights of Assignment Employees under the Act. The amendments also stipulate how the notice of termination and severance pay obligations under the Act apply to Assignment Employees, including how to determine wages owed during the notice period.

Temporary help agencies are prohibited from charging fees to its Assignment Employees and, subject to limited exceptions, from restricting Assignment Employees from entering into employment relationships with clients of the agency. Clients of temporary help agencies are prohibited from taking reprisals against Assignment Employees on a variety of grounds, including if the Assignment Employee makes inquires about, or seeks to enforce, his or her rights under the Act.

The amendments received Royal Assent on May 6, 2009 and will come into force on or about November 6, 2009.

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