TORONTO — Ontario is set to introduce legislation that would require temp agencies and recruiters to be licensed.
Labour Minister Monte McNaughton said there are more than 3,000 agencies in the province and the vast majority operate ethically, but not all.
"Unfortunately, some are lawbreakers who exploit their workers," he said. "This needs to change."
Ministry of Labour inspections have found multiple temporary help agencies that are paying workers below minimum wage and denying basic employment rights, McNaughton said.
"The underground activity they found makes millions of dollars off the backs of workers by not paying minimum wage, not paying holiday pay and not paying overtime pay," he said.
"They also found recruiters charging workers illegal hiring fees, and then clawing back their pay. This ends now. It's time we return these stolen paycheques to the workers who earn them and level the playing field for all agencies and recruiters."
Labour inspections at farms, retirement homes, food processing and warehousing facilities have found more than $3.3 million owing to employees, and about half of that has been recovered, the government said.
Under the proposed legislation, the agencies and recruiters would need to provide an irrevocable letter of credit that could be used to repay wages owed to workers, if need be, and would be vetted before being issued a licence.
The government wants the licensing system to be in place in 2024. In the meantime, Ontario is proposing to hire a team of officers to address illegal practices.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 18, 2021.
Allison Jones, The Canadian Press