Protecting Vulnerable Workers

Archived Backgrounder

Protecting Vulnerable Workers

Ministry of Labour

Temporary Help Agencies

Nearly 1,000 temp agencies operate in Ontario. About 735,000 people in Ontario work in temporary jobs; many of them are employed by temp agencies.

In May 2009, Ontario passed legislation to ensure that temporary help agency employees are being treated fairly. The Employment Standards Amendment Act (Temporary Help Agencies), 2009 delivers fairness for workers by:

  • Making sure that they are not unfairly prevented from being hired directly by employers
  • Prohibiting temporary help agencies from charging fees to workers for things such as resume writing and interview preparation
  • Guaranteeing that employees have the information they need about their assignments including pay schedules and job descriptions
  • Requiring agencies to provide employees with information about their rights under the Employment Standards Act.

Since 2010, about 150 temp agencies have been inspected through the ministry's Employment Standards Program, resulting in 115 orders issued to employers. About $170,000 was recovered on behalf of 3,000 employees in Ontario.


Blitz Focus

From June until the end of August 2012, the ministry will focus on the temp agency sector to check for compliance with:

  • requirements for displaying employment standards information in the workplace
  • requirements for issuing complete wage statements and maintaining records
  • prohibition against unauthorized deductions (e.g., for cash shortages or theft by others)
  • rules related to hours of work, eating periods and overtime pay
  • minimum wage
  • public holiday rules, including time off and public holiday pay
  • requirements ensuring that employees receive proper vacation pay and vacation time
  • prohibition against agencies charging illegal fees to employees
  • providing mandatory information to employees

Proactive inspections

The proactive inspections of the temp sector are part of a risk-based inspection strategy focusing on sectors that:

  • employ vulnerable workers
  • have a prior history of employment standards violations
  • have a high number of Employment Standards Act (ESA) complaints
  • represent a significant part of the workforce in Ontario

Workplace resources

As part of the Ministry of Labour's compliance strategy, Employment Standards Officers work with employers, and employees and worker groups, to help them understand and comply with the Employment Standards Act, by providing them with education, resources and tools.


The Ministry of Labour has also produced posters and resources in 23 languages - and has made available a multilingual toll-free information line (1-800-531-5551) - to help Ontarians understand their employment rights and responsibilities.

The ministry is also helping businesses understand their obligations so that they can comply with the legislation, thus saving them time and money, by heading off employment standards issues before they occur. This help includes online resources for businesses and employees to help them understand employment standards law, including videos, podcasts and publications.

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