With the proliferation of Internet job postings has come a proliferation of Temporary Help Agencies. Employers pay these companies to find temporary workers for their business. Unfortunately, some employers have found that by working with Temporary Help Agencies, they can steal, defraud, and intimidate employees without consequence.
Employer-endorsed intimidation and wage theft, an ongoing issue in Ontario, is finally getting the attention it deserves. In the 2020-2021 period, the Ontario government estimates that over 4.2 million dollars in unpaid wages were owed to over 10,000 temporary workers. These funds were pocketed by both large and small employers who abused the system. The Ontario government has finally taken some steps to protect temporary workers from wage theft and exploitation.
What Can I Do if I am Owed Wages?
Call an employment lawyer first.
The new regulations, while they add additional protections to future temporary help employees, are limited in scope. For example, a licenced temporary help agency will only be required to provide a letter of credit for $25,000.
At the new minimum wage of $16.55 an hour , this would cover only 1500 employee hours. This sounds like a lot, but it is only roughly a month of wages for nine workers.
Many employees will contact the Ministry of Labour, thinking this is the best option due to it being free or thinking an employment lawyer cannot add value. This is false. With many types of employment cases, we at De Bousquet PC can offer legal services on a contingency fee (we only get paid if you win) basis.
An employment lawyer can bring a Court case for your owed wages, including going after the owners of the Temporary Help Agency or employer directly. A business may not be concerned about a claim for wages. Most CEOs get worried when the options are to pay the wages or have the sheriff seize their car.
If the Ministry of Labour officer makes a decision you are unhappy with, an employment lawyer can also bring an appeal to the Ontario Labour Relations Board. As an employee only has 30 days to do so, it is best to have a lawyer already familiar with the case ready to go.
Finally, with the Ministry of Labour, you are working with an impartial Officer representing neither party. The lawyers at De Bousquet PC offer a far more personal service as we represent your claim.
What are the New Regulations?
Starting January 1, 2024, Temporary Help Agencies and recruiters will be required to obtain a license to operate in Ontario, with fines of up to $50,000 for those who fail to comply. They will also required to provide a $25,000 irrevocable letter of credit to be used to repay owed wages to employees. Some key points to note about these new regulations include:
- Temporary Help Agencies that apply for a license before January 1 can continue to operate until they receive a decision.
- If the application is refused, the Temporary Help Agencies have 30 days to cease operating.
- It is illegal for companies to work with unlicensed Temporary Help Agencies and recruiters.
- The penalties become more severe with repeated infractions.
What the New Regulations Mean for Temporary Workers
For temporary workers, these new regulations represent a promising development. The Ontario government is paying more attention to the problems that temporary workers face. These changes impose additional reporting and licensing requirements, aiming to ensure that temporary help agencies comply with the law and treat their employees fairly.
While there aren’t any major changes for employees who are already being paid fairly, these regulations provide an extra layer of protection for all temporary workers. If you are looking for work through one of these agencies, verify that they are appropriately licensed. The absence of a license is a red flag, as it means both the Temporary Help Agency and the employer are participating in illegal activities. Given that they are already breaking the law, they will probably not care if they break more laws, such as failing to pay you properly.
The legislation also seeks to ensure that Temporary Help Agencies post some security for the wages of their employees so that even in the worst-case scenario, workers can recover something for their hard work. If you are working for an unlicensed Temporary Help Agency, there will be no security, and it will be difficult to get paid fairly or at all.
Are You a Temporary Worker? Know Your Protections
It’s essential to understand whether you fall into the category of temporary workers and what protections are in place for you. Some employees are only aware of their status once it is too late.
If you work for a company that loans or contracts you out to work for a different company on a temporary basis, you are a temporary help employee, which is also called an “assignment employee.” The duration of your assignments does not matter. The employer of assignment / temporary help workers is both the Temporary Help Agencies that initially hired them and the employer that they work at. If you are unsure as to your status, it is important to have a qualified employment lawyer look over your contract so you know your rights.
If you’re a temporary worker, it’s important to know they are protected under the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA), as are all other employees. This means that they are entitled to the same rights as other employees, regardless of the temporary nature of their work.
Temporary workers have some additional protections.
A Temporary Help Agency cannot:
- Charge its assignment employees fees for becoming an employee,
- Charge fees for assigning them to work
- Charge fees for resume help, job interviews, or any other step.
It can be difficult and confusing to navigate the law in this area, which is why the expert team at De Bousquet PC stands ready. If you believe your employer has wronged you or have legal concerns about your work, don’t hesitate to seek legal assistance. De Bousquet PC’s team of lawyers is ready to help you navigate your legal troubles and ensure you receive the compensation you deserve.