New Law Will Make Temp Work Safer in Ontario

It is no secret that temporary workers (there are 747,000 of them in Ontario) face vastly more dangerous working conditions than permanent employees. WSIB statistics show that temp workers in non-clerical environments such as factories and warehouses were “more than twice as likely to get hurt on the job in 2016 as non-temp counterparts.“.

Understanding the realities of the current landscape makes the outcomes disturbing yet unsurprising:

  • Temporary workers are employed by temp agencies, not the business (known as the “client company”) where they are actually performing the work. When temporary workers are injured, the client company isn’t held liable by the WSIB — the temp agency is. Therefore, the client company itself has little incentive to make safety a priority.
  • On top of that, many temp agencies are casual, transient and hard to track down, which makes holding them accountable an often impossible feat.
  • Temp workers are often vulnerable people who are in “survival mode”. Frequently, they do not have the resources to obtain permanent employment. Because of their limited options, temp workers who are injured or feel unsafe may be reluctant to pursue their claim or voice their concerns. They know if they speak up, they will be simply be replaced.

Workers’ rights advocate Deena Ladd says in effect, the current system gives “client companies, companies who use agencies, a completely disposable labour force.”

Fortunately, Ontario Labour Minister Kevin Flynn went on record to the Toronto Star earlier this month, saying provisions in a piece of 2014 legislation designed to make temp work safer in Ontario will at last be enacted by the government.

The relevant sections of Bill 18: Stronger Workplaces for a Stronger Economy Act, 2014 would attribute the injury and costs arising from the injury to the client company where the injury occurred, not the temp agency.

According to the Star, the Ministry of Labour is “also undertaking an in-depth investigation into the temp agency sector with results expected to be available in the spring.” No word yet on the exact date the law will come into force.