Protecting Temporary Help Agency Employees
McGuinty Government Implementing Poverty Reduction Strategy
TORONTO, Dec. 9 /CNW/ -
Ontario is taking action to ensure that temporary help agency employees are being treated fairly and have better opportunities to move to sustainable employment.
The Government plans to introduce legislation today that will, if passed, amend the Employment Standards Act to deliver more fairness for low-income workers by:
- Making sure that they are not unfairly prevented from accessing
permanent jobs when employers want to hire them from agencies
- 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
- Ensuring that employees have access to information about their rights
under the Employment Standards Act.
The government has already passed a regulation that will ensure that "elect-to work" employees like temp workers will have the same rights to public holiday entitlements as other workers, effective January 2, 2009. The legislation introduced today would also, if passed, allow the government to enact regulations so that "elect to work" employees also have the same rights to notice of termination and severance pay.
Ontario's Poverty Reduction Strategy is designed to build a stronger economy by creating more opportunity for all low-income families and children. The strategy sets a goal of reducing child poverty by 25 per cent in 5 years - lifting 90,000 children out of poverty.
"The McGuinty government is committed to protecting the rights of all employees," said Labour Minister Peter Fonseca. "We want to ensure that Ontario's employment legislation reflects the realities of today's workplace and labour market in a balanced way, and that employees working through temporary help agencies are properly protected under the law."
"Our Poverty Reduction Strategy is about creating more opportunity and building a stronger economy," said Children and Youth Services Minister Deb Matthews. "By eliminating barriers to permanent employment and strengthening employment rights for many vulnerable workers, we're creating opportunities for them to achieve their potential."
- There are more than 700,000 people in Ontario working in temporary
jobs, many through temporary help agencies.
- There are about 1,000 temporary help agencies currently operating in
Find out how Employment Standards affect you
Learn more about Ontario's Poverty Reduction Strategy
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FAIRNESS FOR TEMPORARY HELP AGENCY EMPLOYEES
The McGuinty government will introduce proposed legislation that, if passed, would ensure that temporary help agency employees are being treated fairly. This legislation would amend the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA) to change a number of provisions affecting temporary help agency employees.
These changes to the ESA are a component of Ontario's Poverty Reduction Strategy, which is about creating more opportunity and building a stronger economy.
More than 700,000 people in the province have temporary jobs, many through temporary help agencies which provide their workers to client businesses that want staff on a non-permanent basis. There are about 1,000 agencies currently operating in Ontario.
Work through temporary help agencies has changed:
- In the 1970s and 1980s, employment through temporary help agencies
was mostly in short-term, clerical jobs that lasted a few days or
weeks. Temporary help agency workers were called in when regular
staff members were away sick or on vacation.
- Today, agencies supply workers in a wide range of occupations. An
employee of an agency might be assigned to a single client business
for several months, or even years. In many cases, agency employees
work side-by-side with the staff of an agency's client business,
doing the same type of work.
REMOVING BARRIERS TO PERMANENT EMPLOYMENT
During the consultations on work through temporary help agencies, concerns were raised that temporary agency employees face barriers to permanent employment. Examples given include:
- Significant "temporary to permanent" fees charged to client
businesses of agencies or employees of agencies
- Contract rules that prevent agency employees being hired by client
- Prohibitions on client businesses providing reference letters for
The proposed legislation would prohibit temporary help agencies from imposing barriers that would prevent or discourage clients of agencies from hiring "assignment employees". If the proposed legislation passes, temporary help agencies would be prohibited from:
- Restricting a client from providing a permanent position to an
agency's assignment employee, or charging the client a "temporary to
permanent" fee after six months or more have passed since the
employee was first assigned to the client
- Restricting an assignment employee from taking permanent employment
with a client of the agency, or charging the employee a fee for doing
- Restricting a client from providing references to an assignment
employee or entering into a permanent employment relationship with an
Any provisions in temporary help agency contracts with assignment employees or clients that violate the above prohibitions would be void if this legislation passes.
PROHIBITING AGENCIES FROM CHARGING FEES TO THEIR EMPLOYEES
Currently, a temporary help agency may ask a person to pay a fee for helping him or her find a temporary assignment. Agencies may also charge fees for other services, such as classes on resume writing or preparing for interviews.
Under the proposed legislation, temporary help agencies would be prohibited from:
- Charging a fee to a person for becoming an assignment employee, or
assistance in finding or attempting to find work with a client.
- Charging a fee to an assignment employee, or prospective assignment
employee, for assistance in preparing a resume or preparing for job
PROVIDING INFORMATION TO EMPLOYEES
There are currently no rules about what information temporary help agencies must give their employees when they are sent to client businesses on assignments. As well, quite often, employees do not know the legal name of the agency where they are working.
The proposed legislation, if passed, would require temporary help agencies to:
- Provide the employees, in writing, with the agency's name and contact
information as soon as possible after the agency enters into an
employment relationship with the employee.
- Agencies would also be required to provide an information sheet
prepared by the Director of Employment Standards on the assignment
employee's ESA rights.
- Provide the employee, in writing, the client's name and contact
information when offering a work assignment. The agency would also be
required to provide information on wages, benefits, hours of work and
the pay schedule associated with the assignment, as well as a general
description of the work to be performed for the client.
PROTECTING EMPLOYMENT STANDARDS RIGHTS
Under current legislation, a temporary help agency is generally considered to be the employer of a person it sends to work for a client business. The client business is not the employer. The agency is responsible for making sure that a worker's employment standards rights are met.
However, the proposed legislation would prohibit clients of agencies from engaging in reprisals against assignment employees for asserting their employment standards rights. The agency, as the employer, would continue to be prohibited from reprisals against its employees, under current provisions of the ESA.
If a temporary help agency owes an assignment employee wages, and if a client owes the agency money, the proposed legislation would allow the Director of Employment Standards to make a demand on the client to pay those monies to the Director in trust, for dispersal to the employee.
REVOKING "ELECT TO WORK" EXEMPTIONS
Currently, the ESA contains special rules for certain employees. Employees who "may elect to work or not (to work) when requested to do so", were exempt from the ESA requirements regarding public holidays, and notice of termination and severance pay.
Many temporary help agency employees were considered to be "elect to work" since they could choose to accept or refuse an agency assignment without any negative consequences. However, once an assignment was accepted, those employees were required to report to work as directed by the client business as a condition of its contract with the agency. Because they were considered "elect to work", these employees were exempt from full public holiday entitlements, and requirements around termination and severance.
The government has now made a regulation removing the "elect to work" exemptions regarding public holidays, effective January 2, 2009, ensuring that temporary help agency employees will have the same rights to public holiday entitlements as other employees in Ontario.
If the proposed legislation should pass, the government intends to enact another regulation removing the "elect to work" exemptions regarding termination and severance.
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For further information: Susan McConnell, Minister's Office, (416) 326-7710; Bruce Skeaff, Communications Branch, (416) 326-7405