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Protecting Vulnerable Workers at Temporary Help Agencies

  • Issued: December 16, 2014
  • Content last reviewed: December 2014
  • See also: Bulletin

Temporary Help Agencies

More than 700,000 people in Ontario work in temporary jobs; many of them are employed by temporary help agencies.

In May 2009, Ontario passed legislation to increase protections for temporary help agency employees. The Employment Standards Amendment Act (Temporary Help Agencies), 2009 delivers protection for employees by:

  • Making sure that they are not prevented from being hired directly by employers.
  • Prohibiting temporary help agencies from charging fees to employees 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 a Ministry of Labour information sheet about their rights under the Employment Standards Act (ESA).

Bill 18, the Stronger Workplaces for a Stronger Economy Act, 2014 received Royal Assent on November 20, 2014. The bill establishes joint and several liability between temporary help agencies and their clients for failure to pay regular wages, overtime pay, public holiday pay, and premium pay for working on a public holiday. This means clients will be liable if agencies don’t pay up.

Since 2010, about 380 temporary help agencies have been inspected through the ministry’s Employment Standards Program, resulting in 280 orders issued to employers. About $450,000 has been recovered on behalf of 11,000 temporary help agency employees in Ontario.

Proactive inspections

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

  • Employ vulnerable workers
  • Have a prior history of employment standards contraventions
  • Have a high number of ESA complaints
  • Represent a significant part of the workforce in Ontario

Resources for employers and employees

The government is committed to working closely with temporary help agencies to help them comply with existing requirements. As part of the Ministry of Labour's compliance strategy, Employment Standards Officers work with employer and employee groups to help them understand and comply with the ESA, by providing them with education, resources and tools.

Resources are available for temporary help agencies and their employees, including:

  • An information sheet for assignment employees
  • A brochure for temporary help agencies
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • An updated “Your Guide to the Employment Standards Act
  • Two downloadable presentations specific to Temporary Help Agencies – one for Hours of Work and one for Public Holidays – in response to requests from Ministry stakeholders

Several online interactive tools are available to help workplace parties determine their responsibilities and entitlements under the ESA.

The ministry has 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 they can comply with the legislation, thus saving them time and money by heading off employment standards issues before they occur. This help includes other online resources such as videos and publications.

Craig MacBride, Minister's Office, 416-326-7709
William Lin, Communications Branch, 416-326-7405
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