Home Workplace Legislation/Press Releases Ontario to require temporary help agencies, recruiters to be licensed starting in 2024

Ontario to require temporary help agencies, recruiters to be licensed starting in 2024

by HR Law Canada

In an effort to safeguard vulnerable and temporary foreign workers, the Ontario government has announced a new licensing requirement for temporary help agencies (THAs) and recruiters operating in the province.

Starting from Jan. 1, 2024, THAs and recruiters will be required to obtain a license to operate legally in Ontario.

This move comes as inspections conducted by Ministry of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development officers have revealed multiple cases of illegal practices within the temporary help agency sector, including the payment of wages below the minimum wage and the denial of basic employment rights.

Level playing field

Minister of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development, Monte McNaughton, emphasized the importance of this licensing system in establishing a level playing field for businesses and protecting workers.

McNaughton stated, “While temporary help agencies are vital to Ontario’s businesses and jobseekers looking to get their foot in the door, for too long they have operated in a grey zone that allows criminals to prey on vulnerable workers.”

He further added, “Our government’s licensing system will ensure law-abiding businesses can have confidence in the THAs and recruiters they work with, and that those who abuse workers face the harshest fines in Canada and are banned from operating in our province.”

Lack of information

One of the significant challenges faced by businesses and jobseekers in Ontario is the lack of information about the compliance and violation history of agencies and recruiters they engage with.

To address this issue, the province will launch an online database where companies and individuals can verify if a THA or recruiter has met the stringent licensing requirements. Utilizing unlicensed businesses for staffing purposes will be illegal, and employers hiring deceitful recruiters will be obligated to reimburse workers for any illegal fees charged.

To operate their businesses, THAs and recruiters will need to provide an irrevocable letter of credit worth $25,000. This credit can be used to repay owed wages to employees. Violators of the licensing requirement may face penalties of up to $50,000 for repeat offenses, which is the highest amount in Canada, according to the Ontario government.

Positive feedback from stakeholders

The announcement has received positive feedback from various stakeholders. Trevor Jones, Member of Provincial Parliament for Chatham-Kent—Leamington, expressed his support, stating, “This licensing system is welcome news for all of Ontario’s temporary foreign workers, including our International Agri-food workers. These changes will ensure all workers have access to resources that protect them while facilitating growth and prosperity in industries across the province.”

Anthony Leardi, Member of Provincial Parliament for Essex, commended the Doug Ford government for their commitment to worker protection, saying, “This is one more way that the Doug Ford government is working for workers.”

Chris Bloore, President and CEO of the Tourism Industry Association of Ontario, highlighted the importance of the new licensing system in supporting the tourism and hospitality industry. He stated, “This new and robust licensing system is a welcome tool to protect some of the most essential workers in our industry and to support businesses in choosing reputable recruitment partners.”

The Association of Canadian Search, Employment and Staffing Services (ACSESS) also expressed its endorsement of the licensing regime. Mary McIninch, Executive Director of Government Relations at ACSESS, emphasized the significance of creating a level playing field and ensuring compliance with legal obligations.

The implementation of this licensing requirement aims to legitimize the operations of THAs and recruiters while protecting the rights of temporary foreign workers. It is seen as a critical step towards achieving worker protection and fair competition in Ontario.

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