The wait is over. Announced along with the sweeping changes to Quebec’s Act respecting labour standards (the “Act”) back in June 2018, the regulation regarding Quebec placement agencies has finally been published and is set to come into effect on January 1, 2020 (the “Regulation”). As announced, the Regulation will stringently regulate placement agencies, notably by requiring that they hold a permit in order to operate, and will afford greater protections to workers, including temporary foreign workers, hired via such agencies.
Requirement to hold a permit
Any individual or organization looking to carry out at least one of the activities covered by the Regulation will need to submit a permit request to Quebec’s Labour Commission (the “CNESST”) and pay the associated fee of $1,780 (indexed annually). Applicants will also be required to provide surety in the amount of $15,000 in order to guarantee the execution of a judgment in the event that a permit holder fails to pay workers the amounts rightly owed to them.
Once issued, a permit will be valid for a period of two years. Permit holders will be subject to continuing obligations, including advising the CNESST of any changes which may affect the validity of their permit, displaying their permit in each of their establishments, and indicating their permit number on all documents commonly used in the course of their activities or for marketing purposes (i.e. invoices, contracts, websites, flyers, etc.).
If a permit holder fails to respect its obligations pursuant to the Regulation, the CNESST may proceed to suspend or revoke the permit.
New benefits for workers hired through placement agencies
Additionally, as of January 1, 2020, workers hired through placement agencies will be entitled to receive the same wage as that afforded to other workers performing the same tasks within the same establishments. Placement agencies and their clients will be liable for all amounts owed to placement agency workers under the act, meaning that where a placement agency fails to pay its workers, the client of the agency that is using the services of those workers will become responsible for all outstanding wages that may be owed to them by the agency.
Pursuant to the Regulation, placement agencies will also be required to provide workers with a document outlining their working conditions at the client’s place of business, as well as certain CNESST documents outlining the rights of workers in employment matters.
Temporary foreign workers
The Regulation provides further protections for temporary foreign workers. For instance, placement agencies will not be able to claim from temporary foreign workers any fees associated with their recruitment beyond those authorized by the Canadian government, while employers retaining the services of temporary foreign workers will also be required to communicate to the CNESST the arrival and departure dates of these employees and will be barred from withholding any documents or goods (including passports) belonging to these employees.
The Regulation respecting placement agencies will have a major impact on placement agencies and on the companies that use their services. If you are a placement agency or a company that uses the services of placement agencies, we invite you to seek out counsel prior to the Regulation coming into effect to ensure that your organization is prepared to address these new requirements.