Temporary Help Agency Employees Obtain New Rights

    McGuinty Government Acts To Reduce Poverty And Protect Employees

    TORONTO, May 4 /CNW/ -


    Ontario has passed legislation to ensure that temporary help agency
employees are being treated fairly and have better opportunities to move to
sustainable employment.
    The Employment Standards Amendment Act (Temporary Help Agencies), 2009
passed today and will come into force six months after Royal Assent.
    The Act will deliver more fairness for low-income temporary help agency
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
    -  Requiring agencies to provide employees with information about their
       new rights under the Employment Standards Act.

    The government will also propose a regulation to ensure that
"elect-to-work" employees have the right 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.


    "It is only fair that temporary help agency workers are treated the same
as other employees. By removing barriers to permanent employment, we are
helping people achieve their potential and opening doors to opportunity." -
Peter Fonseca, Minister of Labour

    "This is another step forward in the implementation of our Poverty
Reduction Strategy. Ensuring temporary workers are treated fairly increases
opportunity for themselves and their families and builds a stronger economy."
- Deb Matthews, Minister of Children and Youth Services


    -  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

                                                      Disponible en français



    The Ontario Legislature has passed the Employment Standards Amendment Act
(Temporary Help Agencies), 2009, to ensure that temporary help agency
employees are being treated fairly. This legislation amends the Employment
Standards Act, 2000 (ESA) to change a number of provisions affecting temporary
help agency employees, and will come into effect six months after Royal
    These changes to the ESA are a component of Ontario's Poverty Reduction
Strategy, which is about creating more opportunity and building a stronger
    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.


    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
       agency employees.

    The new act will prohibit temporary help agencies from imposing barriers
that prevent or discourage clients of agencies from hiring "assignment
employees". Temporary help agencies will 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
       assignment employee.

    Any provisions in temporary help agency contracts with assignment
employees or clients that violate the above prohibitions will be void.


    Before the Employment Standards Amendment Act (Temporary Help Agencies),
2009, a temporary help agency could ask a person to pay a fee for helping him
or her find a temporary assignment. Some agencies also charged fees for other
services, such as classes on resume writing or preparing for interviews.

    Under the new act, temporary help agencies will 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


    The act will 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 will 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 as soon as possible after offering a work assignment. The
       agency will 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.


    Under the Employment Standards Act, 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.
    The new act will prohibit clients of agencies from engaging in reprisals
against assignment employees for asserting their employment standards rights.
The agency, as the employer, will 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 Director of Employment Standards will be
able to make a demand on the client to pay those monies to the Director in
trust, for dispersal to the employee.


    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 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.
    The government intends to enact another regulation removing the "elect to
work" exemptions regarding termination and severance.

                                                      Disponible en français

For further information:

For further information: Susan McConnell, Minister's Office, (416)
326-7710; Bruce Skeaff, Communications Branch, (416) 326-7405

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