While you may not have heard of the Working for Workers Act that will come into effect in 2022, you probably heard a news story or two about the Ontario government’s plan to pass a law that prevents an employer from contacting employees or force them to check emails outside of working hours. This is one of a few changes coming to rules around employment under the new Act.
To better understand the implications of the new Act, it’s important to know that there is law passed by governments (legislation) and law made by court decisions (case law or common law). You can think of legislation as being the theory of what the law is and case law as how the law works in practice.
Why is this relevant? Because at least one of the changes made to employment laws by this Act was already in practice in Ontario courts.
The New Law Prohibits Non-Compete Clauses In Employment Contracts – With Exceptions
Non-compete clauses are pretty much standard in current boiler-plate employment contracts. Many people sign these contracts and believe they can’t work for another company or start a business in the same industry as their new employer after the employment ends because of these clauses.
But in court cases involving employment contracts, these clauses have been deemed unenforceable and seen as unreasonable except in cases involving fiduciary and executive-level employees.
This is an excellent example of why you should always consult or hire an employment lawyer in Toronto before signing an employment contract, accepting a severance package or negotiating compensation – most employees in Ontario don’t know their employment rights.
The new law made by the Act officially prohibits non-compete clauses except in contracts for executives.
More Information on Disconnecting From Work Policies
Employers with 25 or more employees must have a written policy in place for all employees regarding their rights to disconnect from work before March 1, 2022. They have until June 2, 2022, to enact that policy.
Disconnecting from work is defined as “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.”
The policy must include the date it was prepared and dates when any changes are made to it. Each employee must be provided with a copy of this policy in writing within 30 days of when it was prepared or changed.
Other changes made by the Working for Workers Act
Other highlights from the Working for Workers Act include:
- Employers are prohibited from hiring foreign national workers through an agent that charges those foreign nationals fees for their service.
- Temp agencies and recruiters must now be licensed, and employers are only allowed to use licensed agencies.
- Owners of workplaces must provide washroom access to people making deliveries to or from the workplace unless providing access would be unreasonable or impractical for health and safety reasons related to any person at the workplace.
While it remains to be seen how these changes will play out, for now, they seem like a step in the right direction.