Ontario Labour Minister McNaughton Tables Omnibus Legislation Proposing Significant New Employment Law Changes

On October 25, 2021, the Ontario government tabled Bill 27, Working for Workers Act, 2021. If passed, Bill 27 would amend the Employment Standards Act, 2000 and Occupational Health and Safety Act, as well as other statutes. 

Employment Standards Act, 2000 

Disconnecting from Work Policy 

Bill 27 purports to address the reality that employees are not necessarily “free” from work outside of work hours given the proliferation of technology that keeps employees connected to work regardless of location. Bill 27 would require employers that employ 25 or more employees have a written policy with respect to disconnecting from work. The phrase “disconnecting from work” is proposed to mean “not engaging in work-related communications, including emails, telephone calls, video calls or the sending or reviewing of other messages, so as to be free from the performance of work”. Employers will have 6 months from the date that Bill 27 receives Royal Assent to comply with this policy requirement.  Currently, there are no requirements regarding the form or substance of such a policy. 

Prohibition on Non-Compete Agreements

Non-compete agreements are restrictive covenants that restrain employees’ economic and employment opportunities after the employment relationship has ended. While courts are often reluctant to enforce non-compete agreements in any event, Bill 27 proposes to prohibit employers from entering into non-compete agreements with their employees. Bill 27 proposes only one exception to this prohibition in the context of a sale of business where the seller will become employed by the purchaser as a term of the sale agreement. 

The proposed amendment would not preclude non-compete agreements with independent contractors or consultants as it applies to employees only. Bill 27 would not prohibit non-solicitation agreements, which are less restrictive and are, in most cases, sufficient to protect an employer’s interests. 

Licensed Temporary Help Agencies and Recruiters 

Bill 27 proposes requiring temporary help agencies and recruiters to be licensed by the Director of Employment Standards (“DES”) in order to operate. Such licenses would expire each year, and the DES would publish and maintain a public record providing the name and expiry date of each license issued. Employers and prospective employers would be prohibited from knowingly engaging or using the services of an unlicensed temporary help agency or recruiter. 

We will continue to monitor any developments in the progress of this Bill and any other legislative amendments. If you have questions regarding Bill 27 or how it may impact your workplace, please contact your regular lawyer at Rae Christen Jeffries LLP.