The law in Ontario currently lets employers shift their responsibilities as employers onto contractors, temp agencies, subcontractors, and increasingly, onto workers. By passing the buck like this, employers can drive down wages, make work insecure and make it hard for workers to enforce their rights. Employers should be held responsible for ensuring that minimum standards are provided to workers down the chain of temp agencies, contractors, and subcontractors, and should not be able to misclassify workers as independent to avoid employment standard responsibilities. Exclusions and loopholes, which primarily affect young, low wage, women, racialized, and migrant workers, let employers take advantage of workers. Part-time, casual, and temporary agency workers are often paid lower hourly wages than their full time counterparts for doing the exact same work. That is why all workers should be protected by universal minimum standards.
But expanding and strengthening workers’ rights will do nothing if the laws are not enforced. And yet the current system of enforcement relies on workers whose rights have already been violated to bring these violations to the attention of the government, a process that can be risky, intimidating, complicated, and can take a very long time. Enforcement should be proactive, and the costs to employers found in violation of the law should be real. There are many ways to ensure workers can be protected during the process of making a complaint. Solutions include anonymous and third party complaints, protection from wrongful dismissal, and fines for employers who retaliate against them.