The province is proposing a new labour bill that will require large employers to put in “right to disconnect” policies and bar non-compete clauses.
If the Working for Workers Act, 2021 is passed, Ontario will become the first jurisdiction in Canada, and one of the first in North America, to ban non-compete agreements in employment. It will also be the first jurisdiction in Canada to establish policies that help workers disconnect from their employment responsibilities.
Recommended changes would promote healthy work-life balance and will further enable competitiveness by banning unfair non-compete agreements that are used to restrict work opportunities, suppress salary increases and wage growth, the labour ministry said in a statement.
“COVID-19 has changed the way we work, leaving too many people behind, struggling to put food on the table and make ends meet for their families,” said Labour Minister Monte McNaughton.
“We must act swiftly and decisively to put workers in the driver’s seat and begin rebalancing the scales. Today’s proposed legislation shows Ontario is ready to lead the way into the workplaces of tomorrow, and create the conditions that will make talented, innovative people want to work in our great province,” added McNaughton.
The province says it is prioritizing workers’ mental health and family time by requiring employers with 25 employees or more to develop disconnecting from work policies These workplace policies could include, for example, expectations about response time for emails and encouraging employees to turn on out-of-office notifications when they aren’t working.
The proposed legislation will also prohibit employers from using non-compete agreements. These types of contracts often restrict employees from taking new jobs with another business in the same field after they leave the company. The proposed changes would ban this unfair restriction to help workers in Ontario advance their careers and earn more money. This would also give the province a competitive advantage in attracting global talent. Employers would still be able to protect their intellectual property through narrower clauses.
Measures proposed earlier this month will also be part of this legislation. This includes making it easier for internationally-trained individuals to practice in regulated professions, and protecting vulnerable workers by establishing a licensing framework for recruiters and temporary help agencies.
Many of the proposed changes were informed by the recommendations made by the experts of the Ontario Workforce Recovery Advisory Committee, based on their consultations with workers, employers, and unions.