October 6, 2020

What is Ontario Bill 18 and why is it important?

5-minute read

Highlights

  • Although Bill 18 has been in effect for 2 years now, it is not widely known. As an organization partnering with a staffing agency, the implications of this bill are vital to understanding your role and responsibility as hosting client to a temporary workforce.
  • When selecting an agency to work with, bear in mind that if the price seems too good to be true, it is likely that way for a reason and going down that path will only put your organization at risk.
  • As a result of dishonest agencies cheating the system and simply not following the law, the entire industry of temporary staffing is affected and ultimately the employees doing the work.   
  • By remaining vigilant and aware of the changes enacted from Bill 18, you can protect your company and your workforce by sticking with agencies you can trust.

 

Bill 18 was enacted in 2014 with the purpose of amending the Employment Standards Act in Ontario. 4 years later, in 2018 an additional schedule in this bill was passed that includes important items pertaining to the relationship between temporary employees, agencies, and the hosting client.

As an organization partnering with or looking to partner with a staffing agency, it is important to understand the responsibilities of being a hosting client. Policy can be full of jargon, so to save you from having to read an 18-page document, we have isolated the key message relevant to you.

Under Bill 18, the responsibility and liability for the safety and payroll of a temporary employee falls on both the client and the agency supplying the worker.

In pursing the support of an agency, you are likely seeking a flexible workforce while maintaining the peace of mind that their rights and well being are covered by the agency. Although you will always have the responsibility to ensure a safe workplace and a record of hours worked, if you decide to work with a reputable organization, you can rest assured that your temporary staff are protected and paid appropriately. Unfortunately, dozens of agencies exist that can betray that trust and, with the changes resulting from Bill 18, leave you with steep fines and charges.  

For instance, if one of your temporary workers is injured on the job, and your agency goes AWOL or cannot afford the fees, you would then be held accountable by the WSIB for any injury and accident costs. Moreover, if a temporary employee reports that they are not being paid, you could be charged for the wages, overtime, holiday pay, and premium pay that is owed by the agency.

An example of why we need Bill 18

A prominent example of this is Fiera Foods and the 15+ agencies they partnered with to supply 70% of their workforce. 5 temporary workers have died at a Feira Foods affiliated factory since 1999. After the most recent death in 2018, it was found that the agencies who supplied their workers were either under investigation by the CRA or simply disappeared from existence.

The agencies that left Fiera Foods with the legal responsibilities of these tragic accidents highlight the importance of Bill 18. In the worst of cases, these are companies working out of their homes. Calling candidates from Indeed, offering cash and asking for nothing but their name and availability. These agencies send candidates with little to no training, who may or may not be physically capable of performing the duties of the position, resulting in increased chances of injury or accident in the workplace.

Putting payroll costs into consideration, a pop-up staffing agency with limited funding and a smaller footprint might find difficulty covering the wages of their associates over time or simply disappear from existence at the first sign of trouble. This leaves the hosting client, having shared responsibility for their temporary workforce, with the burden of any unpaid wages. In the case of Fiera Foods, a thorough Ministry of Labour inspection found that one of the agencies who reported supplying only 12 employees were actually responsible for over 200 people according to Fiera records. Another agency was found by ministry inspectors to have been using a UPS mailbox as one of their addresses where the other was the address of an unrelated company with no knowledge of the agency.

By paying employees in cash, these disreputable agencies can pay their associates less than minimum wage while avoiding WSIB remittance or other contributions such as EI and CPP. They are then able to undercut the competition by offering lower rates. Although these rates may look attractive for your budget, they come at a cost to the industry and at a risk to your business.

How to identify an agency you can trust

In order to identify an agency you can trust, we’ve compiled a few questions we suggest you ask before making your final decision:

  • Are you a member of ACSESS (Association of Canadian Search, Employment & Staffing Services)?
  • Can you provide a WSIB clearance certificate?
  • Have you ever had a fine against you by the WSIB or Ministry of Labour?
  • Do you provide training for you temporary workers?
  • How do you confirm that your associates are legally able to work in Canada?

 

In choosing to work with a reputable agency, you are partnering with a company that you can be confident is compliant with the law, keeping accurate records, and supplying qualified workers. When making your decision, think of us as an extension of your HR team. As an example, here at TalentWorld the interests of our clients and associates are at the forefront of our process. We provide associates that are trained for the job and ensure their safety by asking the right questions to determine if they are physically capable and comfortable with the position.

More often than not, our safety audits by the Ministry of Labour lead to credits and rebates from the WSIB at the end of the year. This is a direct result of the diligence and care put into our process to protect our associates and our clients.

With the current level of communication around Bill 18, there may be enough awareness to help deter the use of shady agencies, but it does not enforce it. Unfortunately, these agencies do exist and, although they may look attractive at first, the risk of accident, fatality, and significant fines do not outweigh the potential cost savings.

Interested in discussing Bill 18 in even more detail? Our resident expert would be thrilled to talk shop. Get in touch.

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