April 24, 2022

By Brian Babcock

Most of the Working for Workers Act, 2021 is now law in Ontario. How might it affect your business or organization, or your life as a worker? This Act amends several existing laws that affect the workplace, most particularly the Employment Standards Act.

In a nutshell, the significant changes include:

  • banning businesses from using non-compete agreements in most situations
  • requiring businesses with more than 25 employees to develop a “right to disconnect policy”
  • access to washrooms for delivery drivers and truckers
  • new procedures to make it easier for internationally trained workers to practice their professions in Ontario, hopefully making it easier to recruit needed professionals in areas of shortages.

Additional important provisions requiring licensing of recruiters and temporary help agencies will come into force once accompanying regulations are in place. This will be a major step toward regulating a sector thought to badly need it.

The provisions on non-compete agreements apply effective October 25, 2021. Other provisions came into force December 2, 2021.

Perhaps the most discussion has been about the “right to disconnect”. This is the area where the requirements are most vague. The existence of the requirement is clear, as is the deadline of May 2, 2022 to complete the first policy, with review and possible revision required each subsequent year by March 31.

What we do not know is what the policies must include. So far, it does not appear that the government will mandate a particular “right to disconnect” on any particular basis. The objective of having employers draft a policy is to allow them to be tailored to specific needs, and convey each employer’s specific expectations. It is unclear so far what policies must include, or what will be acceptable before it is deemed not to be a true policy. This remains to be set out in guidelines or regulations to follow. That makes starting to draft your policies difficult.

If you operate a business you should:

  • not enter into non-compete agreements except with executives, or at the time of the sale of a business
  • review non-solicitation agreements or similar documents to see if they are likely to be deemed not to be non-compete agreements. This will be tricky until we see some new cases or regulations, but there are some existing cases that offer some guidance
  • if you employ more than 25 workers on January 1, start to consider what your “right to disconnect policy” might include by identifying your needs and expectations
  • follow-up on the policy requirements as soon as guidelines are issued
  • be aware of the new opportunities to hire foreign trainer workers
  • pay attention to the progress of the provisions regarding recruiting and temporary help agencies – you will want to avoid using agencies that do not comply
  • Make your washrooms available to truckers and delivery persons as required

If you need more information about the details of the new provisions, or assistance implementing new policies, Weilers Law has the expertise, with what we believe is the longest establishment management side labour and employment law practice in Thunder Bay and Northwestern Ontario.

We also selectively advise and represent non-unionized workers who might be affected by these changes, with a focus on professionals and executives.