Caregivers Action Centre Submission to Ontario Labour Law Reform

Published on September 18, 2015

Caregivers seek permanent residency upon arrival as a key strategy to addressing vulnerability at work. The Ontario government should advocate for this change in the federal immigration system. There is still much that can be done to improve protections for caregivers under the ESA. The Caregivers’ Action Centre endorses the recommendations set out in Still Working on the Edge: Building decent jobs from the ground up. In addition, there are specific measures that address the particular vulnerabilities of caregivers outlined below. We recommend:

Download our full submissions to the Changing Workplaces Review HERE.

  1. The ESA should provide for an eight-hour day and a 40-hour work week. Employees should have the right to refuse work beyond 40 hours. Overtime at time and a half should be paid (or taken as paid time off in lieu) after 40 hours.
  2. Increase vacation entitlement to three weeks per year. The employee should have the right to determine when vacation is taken.
  3. Repeal the exemption for employers of 49 or less workers from providing personal emergency leave. Provide 7 paid sick days per year.
  4. Bring the ESA in line with the federal caregiver program and prohibit deductions for room and board for live-in caregivers.
  5. Establish set fines (rather than Employment Standards Officer discretion) for confirmed violations, including settlements and voluntary compliance.
  6. Order employers to pay interest on all unpaid wages. The names of employers found in violation of Employment standards should be publicized on the Ministry of Labour website.
  7. Under the employer registry of caregivers recommended below, conduct education to inform employers of their responsibilities and employee’s anti-reprisals protections.
  8. Conduct proactive inspections of employers of caregivers.
  9. Authorize the Ministry of Labour to request bonds in cases where wages may go unpaid due to employer’s history of previous wage claim violation or sectors at high risk of violations such as caregivers and other migrant workers.
  10. Amend the ESA to include protection from wrongful dismissal.
  11. Change the Canada-Ontario Immigration Agreement (COIA) to create an open work permit program for caregivers and migrant workers who have filed complaints against employers under the ESA and against recruiters under the Employment Protection for Foreign Nationals Act.
  12. To protect migrant workers from employers who reduce the conditions of work specified in their contract of employment under the TFWP, workers should be able to make claims under the ESA when conditions of the employment contract have been reduced or not complied with.
  13. Establish the legislative framework to enable sectoral bargaining in Ontario. The Labour relations act prohibits caregivers from organizing unions. Caregivers should be able to unionize and bargain sectorally with employer representatives.
  14. Ontario should adopt a proactive system of employer registration, recruiter licensing (including the mandatory provision of an irrevocable letter of credit or deposit), mandatory filing of information about recruitment and employment contracts, and proactive government inspection and investigation in line with the best practices model adopted in Manitoba’s Worker Recruitment and Protection Act and the enhancements developed in Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia. Specific enhancements to the Manitoba model that should be adopted in Ontario include:

- mandatory reporting of all individuals and entities that participate in the recruiter’s supply chain in Canada and abroad;

- mandatory reporting of detailed information regarding a recruiter’s business and financial information in Canada and abroad as developed in Nova Scotia’s legislation;

- explicit provisions that make a licensed recruiter liable for any actions by any individual or entity in the recruiter’s supply chain that are inconsistent with the Ontario law prohibiting exploitative recruitment practices;

- public registries of both licensed recruiters and registered employers;

- explicit provision that makes it an independent offence for an employer to engage the services of a recruiter who is not licensed under the legislation;

- explicit provisions that make an employer and recruiter jointly and severally liable for violations of the law and employment contract

15. Raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour and annually index by inflation.