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  • Stephen Lecce, MPP

Ontario Helping Jobseekers and Cracking Down on Exploitative Employers

TORONTO — The Ontario government is proposing legislative changes that would make the hiring process fairer for jobseekers who are trying to get into the workforce and that would get tougher on exploitative employers by increasing maximum fines for violating the Employment Standards Act (ESA) to the highest level in Canada.


"We know that the vast majority of employers across Ontario are doing right by their staff and customers and helping drive the economic prosperity of our province,” said David Piccini, Minister of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development. “But with today’s announcement, we are sending a clear message to those bad actor employers out there that there are real consequences for bad behaviour. We are also supporting jobseekers by taking a balanced approach that gives them greater certainty in the hiring process without adding unnecessary or onerous requirements for employers.”


The government will soon introduce legislation that will, if passed, double the maximum fine for individuals convicted of violating the ESA from $50,000 to $100,000, which would be the highest fine in Canada. The government will also make regulatory changes to increase the penalty for repeat offenders who have contravened the same provision of the ESA three or more times from $1,000 to $5,000, one of the highest penalties in Canada. Violations of the ESA include failure to pay wages, penalizing employees for taking pregnancy or parental leave and paying employees unequal pay for equal work on the basis of gender.


The government is also intending to propose changes to the ESA that would, if passed, require larger employers to disclose in publicly advertised job advertisements whether a job vacancy exists or not. Additionally, proposed changes would require larger employers to respond to job applicants whom they have interviewed for publicly advertised job postings, which would make Ontario the first province in Canada to set this standard. The government intends to consult on these proposed changes to ensure they are implemented in a manner that does not cause undue red tape for employers (i.e. consulting on the size of the business that these measures would apply to as well as the most efficient way to respond to jobseekers once a position has been filled, such as through an automated process) while giving prospective employees the certainty they deserve.


These changes are part of a larger package of measures which will be unveiled in the coming weeks that will build on the government’s previous Working for Workers acts to protect workers, help them earn bigger paycheques and help newcomers contribute to building Ontario. By continuing to put workers first, the government is building a brighter future for all Ontarians and ensuring our province remains the best place to live, work and raise a family.


Quick Facts


  • With the historic measures in four previous Working for Workers Acts, 2021, 2022, 2023 and 2024, Ontario is advancing a nationally leading, pro-workers legislative agenda designed to support, attract and protect workers, increase economic competitiveness and support Ontario businesses.

  • Ontario is the only place in Canada where penalties can be multiplied without a cap, based on the number of employees affected by a contravention. This means penalties can increase significantly depending on the number of affected employees.

  • A recent survey of 1,000 hiring managers conducted by Clarify Capital in October 2023 found that 50 per cent of hiring managers reported creating job openings to keep a talent pool “at the ready” for when they are hiring, without the intention to hire in the immediate term.


Quotes


"This announcement and these new government measures build confidence in Ontario as a safe and trusted place to work and demands more accountability from employers that violate the Employment Standards Act. We welcome these changes and the Government of Ontario’s work to strengthen protection for job seekers and workers. A safer and healthier workforce means a more vibrant and thriving economy in Ontario."


- Guled Warsame

President, UNITE HERE Local 75


"At the Ontario Restaurant Hotel & Motel Association, we understand the challenges the industry faces in hiring and keeping staff. We believe that strong employee policies can bring top talent to a company. By following the Employment Standards Act, businesses embrace effective hiring and recruiting practices, creating an outstanding workplace that attracts top-notch employees."


- Tony Elenis

President and CEO, Ontario Restaurant Hotel & Motel Association (ORHMA)


Additional Resources


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