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Ontario Government Proposes Important Employment Law Changes in Bill 27, Including Right to Disconnect

On October 25, 2021, the Government of Ontario introduced Bill 27, Working for Workers Act, 2021 (“Bill 27”) for first reading. Bill 27 proposes a number of amendments to the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (“ESA”), the Occupational Health and Safety Act (“OHSA”), the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, 1997 (“WSIA”) and other employment-related pieces of legislation.

This blog summarizes some of the most significant changes proposed by Bill 27.

Proposed Amendments to the ESA

  • Disconnecting from Work: Bill 27 would require employers that employ 25 or more employees to have a written policy with respect to disconnecting from work. The term “disconnecting from work” is defined to mean “not engaging in work-related communications, including emails, telephone calls, video calls or the sending or reviewing of other messages, so as to be free from the performance of work.” Employers would have six months from the date Bill 27 receives Royal Assent to comply with the requirements.
  • Non-Compete Agreements: Subject to exceptions for a sale of business, Bill 27 would prohibit employers from entering into employment contracts or other agreements with an employee that are, or that include, a non-compete agreement.
  • Temporary Help Agencies: Bill 27 would also add licensing requirements for temporary help agencies and recruiters and would prohibit employers from knowingly engaging or using the services of an unlicensed temporary help agency or recruiter.

Proposed Amendments to the OHSA

Bill 27 would amend the OHSA to require the owner of a workplace to provide washroom access to workers who are delivering anything to the workplace or picking up a delivery. Providing access would not be required where:

  • it would not be reasonable or practical for reasons relating to health or safety;
  • it would not be reasonable or practical having regard to all the circumstances (including the nature of the workplace, the type of work at the workplace, the conditions of work, the security of any person and the location of the washroom); or
  • the washroom can only be accessed through a dwelling.

Proposed Amendments to the WSIA

Bill 27 would amend the WSIA to permit the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (“WSIB”) to distribute surpluses in its insurance fund (in excess of prescribed amounts) among certain employers, and to enable the WSIB to work with entities, like the Canada Revenue Agency, to streamline remittances for businesses.

Implications for Employers

Bill 27 still needs to go through the full legislative process before it could become law, and employers will want to follow this process closely.

If Bill 27 is passed, employers will need to be ready to develop a written policy concerning the right to disconnect from work. In its current form, Bill 27 does not specify what information must be included in such a policy, or which employees might be exempt from the requirements.

Likewise, Ontario courts have typically not enforced non-compete clauses when they are deemed to be too restrictive, but Bill 27 would make such clauses void. The amendments would still allow employers to protect their rights through narrower clauses, such as non-solicitation covenants. 

Our team continues to carefully monitor the status of Bill 27 and will post updates as they become available. If you have any questions regarding the impact of these proposed changes on your workplace, please do not hesitate to contact a member of our Labour & Employment Law Group.

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