The Ontario government has, in the last few weeks, introduced various measures impacting employers. The introduction of Bill 27, the Working for Workers Act, 2021 will, if passed, require most Ontario employers to enact a policy on disconnecting from work and prohibit employers from entering into non-competition agreements. The Bill also requires other changes to employment-related legislation. In addition, a minimum wage hike is planned for January 2, 2022 and an updated COVID-19 Screening Tool is now available. An overview of these changes is provided below.

COVID-19 Screening Tool

On October 25, the Ontario government released a new COVID-19 Screening Tool for businesses available here .

Ontario employers may use this tool to screen employees for COVID-19 or may develop their own tools for this purpose, as long as they use the same questions. The person responsible for a business or organization that is permitted to be open must ensure that workers, whether or not they have been vaccinated, are actively screened for COVID-19 before they go to work or start their shift each day.

The screening tool has been updated so that vaccinated individuals can skip certain questions in the screening questionnaire. Employers are free to ask more onerous questions but at a minimum must comply with the Screening Tool questions as Ontario still requires employers to "actively" screen their employees.

Minimum Wage Hike

On November 2, the Ontario government announced its plan to introduce legislation which, if passed, would raise the general minimum from $14.35 to $15.00 per hour, effective January 1, 2022. Special minimum wage rates would also increase (for further details see here).

Bill 27 - Significant Proposed Changes

  • Prohibition of Non-Compete Agreements: In accordance with the Bill, employers would be prohibited from entering into "an agreement or part of an agreement" that prohibits an employee from engaging in any business, work, occupation, profession, project or other activity that is in competition with the employer's business after the employment relationship between the employee and the employer ends. If an employer contravenes this provision, the non-compete agreement will be void. The agreements captured by Bill 27 are broad and not limited to employment agreements or offer letters and would cover other agreements that contain non-competes (for example, standalone restrictive covenant agreements).

    If Bill 27 passes, the prohibition of non-competes will be deemed to have come into effect on October 25, 2021. We also note that Bill 27 contains an exception for non-compete agreements entered into in the context of a sale of business
  • Written Policy on Disconnecting from Work: Employers that employ 25 or more employees as of January 1 of any year would be required to have a written policy with respect to disconnecting from work. The term "disconnecting from work" is defined in the Bill 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. Bill 27 does not specify the policy content requirements but provides that such may be prescribed. Employers will have six months after the day Bill 27 receives Royal Asset to put in place the policy.
  • Licensing for Temporary Help Agencies: Licensing requirements would be put in place for temporary help agencies and recruiters. In addition, knowingly engaging or using the services of an unlicensed temporary help agency or recruiter would be prohibited. A recruiter or person acting on behalf of a recruiter would be prohibited from reprising against prospective employees, including for asking the recruiter to comply with the Ontario Employment Standards Act.
  • Workplace Washroom Access: Workplaces would be required to provide washroom access to persons making deliveries to or from the workplace. This would be subject to certain exceptions, including where providing access would be unreasonable or impractical for reasons relating to the health and safety of any person at the workplace.
  • Distribution of WSIB Insurance Fund Surplus: The Workplace Safety and Insurance Board ("WSIB") would be required to distribute surplus amounts in the insurance fund among Schedule 1 employers. This proposed changed is intended to assist businesses in coping with the impacts of COVID-19. The WSIB would also be enabled to work with entitles, like the Canada Revenue Agency, to streamline remittances for businesses.

Bill 27 was carried on second reading and has been referred to the Standing Committee on Social Policy. As such, we remind employers that Bill 27 remains subject to change. We also anticipate that the regulations to Bill 27 will contain additional detail and, potentially, exemptions from the prohibition of non-competes. Nonetheless, we suggest that employers be mindful of Bill 27 when drafting employment agreements and restrictive covenants, and that they consult with counsel in this regard.

We will continue to monitor the progress of Bill 27 and will post any updates on this blog.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.