In Ontario, there are about 640,000 people working in temporary jobs, and many do so through temporary help agencies.

Bill 139, the Employment Standards Amendment Act (Temporary Help Agencies), 2009 is now in force with the goal of ensuring that temporary help agency employees are treated more fairly by, among other things:

  • making sure that they are not prevented from accessing permanent jobs by prohibiting a temporary help agency from restricting its assignment employees from entering into employment relationships with clients of the agency;
  • prohibiting temporary help agencies from charging fees to employees for an assignment or for things such as résumé writing and interview preparation;
  • guaranteeing that employees have the information they need about their assignments, including pay schedules and job descriptions; and
  • requiring agencies to provide employees with information about their new rights under the Employment Standards Act.

Elect-to-work employees – now defined and known as “assignment employees” – have complete discretion in deciding whether to work or not when asked, and these employees are now entitled to notice of termination and severance pay and (by Regulation 432/08) to the same rights to public holidays as other employees.

Where a temporary help agency agrees with a client to assign a person to perform the work, the temporary help agency is the person’s employer. Clearly, for the 1,000 temporary help agencies across the province, Bill 139 will increase their costs, and much of those increased costs will likely be passed on to the business client that enters into an arrangement with a temporary help agency.

On the other hand, by elimination of the finder’s fee, there are apt to be some benefits for the employer business client that wishes the temporary worker, after the passage of a required six-month period, to join the firm or company as a permanent and direct employee.