On November 14, 2023, the Ontario government introduced Bill 149, the Working for Workers Four Act, 2023. The Act represents the latest in a line of substantial labour legislation changes that has become a unique policy turn for a conversative government. While the changes presented below are individually fairly small, when taken together they represent an important part of the “working for workers” political brand that the Ford government is putting forward, something that has traditionally been NDP political territory.
Bill 149 proposes changes to Ontario labour laws that, if passed, could have implications for a wide swath of Ontario employers:
- Publicly-advertised job postings must post the range of expected compensation for the position. (Additionally, Bill 149 would require that a copy of every publicly advertised job posting be retained for three years);
- Any employer who uses artificial intelligence to screen, select or assess applicants must include a statement disclosing that fact in the posting;
- Requirement for Canadian work experience in job postings or application forms will be banned;
- Increase the number of international students eligible to apply to the Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program. Changes have also been proposed to improve oversight of how regulated professions like accountants, architects, and geoscientists use third-party organizations to assess international qualifications.
- There are no details on the definitions of “artificial intelligence” or “publicly advertised job posting” in the legislation. The way these terms are defined will be set out in the final regulations, rather than the Bill itself, and will significantly shape the consequences of Bill 149.
- The stated purpose of these measures is to give greater transparency to workers in the hiring process and to help close the gender and racial pay gap. In the case of AI, the government is responding to growing concerns over the ethical, legal, and privacy implications of AI hiring systems.
- The measures aimed at international students and workers trained or educated in other countries are another step in the Ontario government’s ongoing effort to remove systemic barriers to newcomers entering the Ontario labour market. Previous measures included large investments in skills development through the Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program and streamlining professional registration for internationally-trained immigrants, especially in healthcare.
- Ontario estimates there are up to 400,000 unfilled positions in the labour market. Any steps that can be taken to ensure that these unfilled jobs can be filled by the substantial number of new immigrants to Canada will, this government believes, enhance Ontario’s economy substantially.
The second significant section of the legislation deals with supporting injured workers by enabling “super indexing” increases to Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) benefits above the annual rate of inflation. Super indexing would increase pay for injured workers, along with improving cancer coverage for firefighters, by lowering the duration of employment needed to receive compensation from 25 years to 15 years.
“Super indexing” in this case refers to adding a cost-of-living adjustment to the income of injured workers. In 2023, that adjustment would be an additional 6.5 percent, on top of an adjustment for inflation. This change will only apply to workers under WSIB, including workers in hospitality, trade unions, construction, and most small businesses.
This is the second time this government has made a significant investment in such populations; in 2022, the government indexed the Ontario Disability Support Program to inflation.
The third significant change strengthens wage protections for restaurant and hospitality workers. The proposed wage protections will ban unpaid trial shifts, protect worker tips, and make it clear that employers can never deduct an employee’s wages in the event of a dine and dash, gas and dash, or any other stolen property.
These wage protections are sure to be popular with hospitality workers and have already been well-received by many in the sector. The proposed changes follow earlier measures by the government relating to service and gig workers, including standardizing and increasing the minimum wage to $15 and applying employment protections for gig workers in compensation and disputes.
More information is available here: Working For Workers Four Act, 2023 | Ontario Newsroom
Bill 149 provides a broad legislative framework, with many details to be addressed in the forthcoming regulation and consultation process.
The Ontario government will also be separately launching consultations on:
- Restricting the use of Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs) in the settlement of cases of workplace sexual harassment, misconduct, or violence.
- Creating a new, job-protected leave for critical illnesses (like cancer) to match the length of the 26-week federal Employment Insurance sickness benefit.
Counsel’s Ontario Practice will continue to provide our analysis as Bill 149 progresses through the legislative process, as more reactions emerge from the interested or affected parties, and as new consultations are announced.
If you have questions about what Bill 149 means for your sector, business, or association, please reach out to the Counsel Public Affairs team.