On May 6, 2024, the Ontario Government introduced Bill 190, the Working for Workers Five Act (“Bill 190”). This bill builds upon a series of previous Working for Workers Acts, including the most recently passed Working for Workers Four Act, 2023.

Bill 190 proposes to amend key workplace legislation, including the Employment Standards Act, 2000, [ESA]), the Occupational Health and Safety Act [OHSA], and the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act [WSIA] to enhance worker protections and remove barriers to employment.

A summary of the proposed amendments can be found below:

Proposed Amendments to the ESA

  1. Increased fairness and penalties for ESA violations

Bill 190 proposes new sections to the ESA, mandating employers to disclose in publicly advertised job postings whether a position is vacant and respond to applicants they have interviewed for those jobs.

Bill 190 also proposes to double the maximum fine for individuals convicted of violating the ESA from $50,000 to $100,000—the highest fine in Canada. Additionally, Bill 190 increases the penalty for repeat offenders who have contravened the same ESA provision three or more times from $1,000 to $5,000.

  1. Sick leave documentation

If passed, Bill 190 would prohibit employers from requiring a sick note for sick leaves under the ESA in an effort to reduce the administrative burden on healthcare professionals. Proposed amendments would still allow employers to request alternative forms of evidence that are reasonable in the circumstances.

Proposed Amendments to the OHSA

  1. Supporting women at work

If passed, Bill 190 will update the definition of “harassment” under the OHSA to protect against virtual harassment, including virtual sexual harassment. Further amendments will require washrooms provided to workers to be clean and sanitary and also require cleaning records to be maintained. The proposed changes will also require menstrual products to be provided on construction projects with 20 or more regularly employed workers.

  1. Electronic posting requirements

To reduce paper usage, Bill 190 proposes to allow electronic copies of OHSA to meet posting requirements and will allow joint health and safety committee meetings to be held virtually.

Proposed Amendments to the WSIA

For firefighters, Bill 190 proposes to expand presumptive coverage for occupational cancers, heart injuries and post traumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”), by increasing presumptive coverage to two new categories of firefighting related roles. The proposed amendments will also lower the required duration of service for presumptive coverage of primary-site skin cancer from 15 to 10 years for firefighters.

Other Amendments to Workplace Legislation

If passed, Bill 190 would amend the Fair Access to Regulated Professions and Compulsory Trades Act, 2006 to require regulated professions to have a policy to accept alternative documentation where regularly required documentation of qualifications cannot be obtained.

To further ease barriers to employment, Bill 190 would amend the Ontario Immigration Act, 2015 to allow the delegation of internal reviewer decision-making authority to speed up immigration processes. Bill 190 also proposes further changes to streamline the registration process for internationally trained workers and increase the occupations eligible for the In-Demand Skills stream of the Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program.

Bill 190 proposes changes to the Building Opportunities in the Skilled Trades Act, 2021, to ease the ability for individuals interested in the skilled trades to find apprenticeship opportunities through a new high school stream and an online job portal. The proposed changes would also allow for alternative pathways into the skilled trades where individuals meet alternative criteria such as professional experience but lack certain academic requirements.

In addition to these amendments, Bill 190 proposes consultations for the following:

  • Identifying potential legislative or regulatory changes to create a duty to act for employers where investigations have identified workplace harassment has occurred by consulting legal experts and survivors of harassment;
  • A new 27-week job-protected leave for employees experiencing serious or critical illness (which we discussed in our previous blog);
  • Expanding the types of workers who would presumptively be entitled to benefits for PTSD under the WSIA;
  • Expanding the types of health and safety equipment to be provided on construction projects.

Takeaways for Employers

Bill 190 is currently at the First Reading stage, meaning the proposed amendments have yet to receive Royal Assent and pass into law. We will continue to monitor the progression of Bill 190 and provide updates that are relevant to employers as further details emerge.

 

This blog is provided as an information service and summary of workplace legal issues.

This information is not intended as legal advice.