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Temporary help agencies: New Ontario license requires proof of OHSA compliance

Group of workers meeting on the factory floor

As of July 1, 2024, under the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA), all temporary help agencies and recruiters now require a license to operate in Ontario

"Even agencies and recruiters based outside of Ontario must be aware of this requirement," states Tanya True, Health and Safety Account Manager with WSPS. "If they plan on placing workers in Ontario workplaces, they need a license too."

Those found operating without a license could be fined up to $50,000. Employers knowingly engaging with or utilizing an unlicensed help agency/recruiter could also face similar fines.

“Even if the recruiter or agency is based outside Ontario, a license is required if they plan to place workers in Ontario workplaces.”

Licensing requirements support safer workplaces

Ontario employers often turn to temporary help agencies to fill gaps in their workforce. “We see workers from temporary help agencies in all sectors, from manufacturing and agriculture to retail and administration,” says Tanya. The new licensing will bring more oversight and regulation to these agencies and their practices. More oversight will help the government ensure agencies and recruiters are in compliance with the ESA and the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA), which is important because temporary help agencies and recruiters are often working with vulnerable workers who may not be aware of their legislative rights.

“Part of the new licensing requires temporary help agencies and recruiters to be in health and safety compliance,” says Tanya. “Legislative requirements must be met before a license is granted. So, I believe these changes will help ensure that when temporary workers enter the workforce from these agencies, they will have basic health and safety knowledge and will know what type of training and information to expect from the employer.”

Focus on these key areas of your health and safety program

If you are an agency or recruiter, Tanya recommends doing a thorough review of your health and safety program to prepare for the application process. “Most will have some of the health and safety requirements in place, but they will need to find out where the gaps are before applying for a license to operate,” says Tanya.

Tanya highlights these seven key areas to focus on as you prepare for your license application. Compare what you are doing in each of these areas—and how you are demonstrating it—to the legislative requirements outlined in the OHSA.

  1. Mandatory health and safety awareness training
  2. New worker orientation
  3. Workplace health and safety posting requirements
  4. Duties and responsibilities of workplace parties
  5. Workplace violence and harassment policy
  6. Injury reporting procedures
  7. Return to work plan

To help with this, WSPS safety experts are available to conduct a free assessment of your health and program. “The assessment is essentially a basic health and safety requirement checklist. It’s ideal for businesses that are looking to find out where they stand in terms of their health and safety,” says Tanya. Links to free templates and related resources are included in the assessment, which makes it easy to fill any gaps in your program.

How WSPS can help