News

Ontario Creating a Better Future for Workers

[ONTARIO NEWS RELEASE]

TORONTO — The Ontario government is introducing legislation today that, if passed, would better protect, support, and attract workers to the province. These proposed new measures position Ontario as a first mover in charting the path forward as the way people work changes. The proposed 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.

Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development, will today introduce the Working for Workers Act, 2021, which would help make Ontario the top choice for people around the world to live, work and raise a family.

“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 Minister McNaughton. “Our government is working for workers. To do so, 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.”

If passed, this proposed legislation would make Ontario the first jurisdiction in Canada to make it easier for people to relax and spend quality time with their loved ones. By requiring employers with 25 employees or more to develop disconnecting from work policies, Ontario is prioritizing workers’ mental health and family time. 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, protecting vulnerable workers by establishing a licensing framework for recruiters and temporary help agenciesensuring washroom access for delivery workers by requiring business owners to allow them to use the washrooms at the businesses they serve, and supporting businesses who continue to suffer from the impacts of COVID-19.

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. These proposed changes complement the work that the government is already doing to improve and expand transportation, virtual care and broadband internet access, making it easier for more people to pursue remote work and make Ontario the “work from anywhere” province.

BACKGROUNDER

Ontario is a taking action to better protect, support and attract workers in response to the shifting landscape of work. This includes ongoing work to improve and expand transportation, virtual care and broadband internet access, making it easier for more people to pursue flexible work options and remote work, and make Ontario the “work from anywhere” province.

Transportation

To make it easier to live farther from work, Ontario is investing $84 billion in transportation over the next decade. Ontario has a vision of an interconnected transportation system that provides a safe, seamless and accessible transportation experience for everyone in Ontario.

Ontario is committed to addressing the unique transportation needs of every region across the province, and to developing fast and reliable transportation networks linking smaller communities and larger centres in Ontario, giving people more choice of where to live and work.

Ontario’s recent actions and investments include:

  • The $28.5-billion New Subway Transit Plan for the GTA that will transform the region’s outdated subway system into a modern, integrated rapid transit network that offers more options and reduces travel times.
  • Metrolinx has embarked on a multi-billion dollar GO Rail Expansion program which will see frequent two-way rail service being provided on core segments of the GO Rail network in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area, connecting communities across the region. In addition, Metrolinx is in discussion with freight rail partners to identify opportunities to increase GO Rail services to Kitchener, Milton, Niagara and Bowmanville, further extending frequent rail service reach into the Greater Golden Horseshoe Region.
  • Committing $2.6 billion for 2021/22 to expand and repair provincial highways and bridges.

Broadband Access

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted how crucial it is for people to have access to high-speed internet to work, learn, access vital services such as health care, and connect with loved ones. There are an estimated 700,000 households, mainly in rural, remote and northern communities, that do not have access to standard internet speeds of 50/10 megabits per second (Mbps).

In response, Ontario’s 2021 Budget increased funding commitments to a historic nearly $4 billion since 2019. Investments through Up to Speed: Ontario’s Broadband and Cellular Action Plan (2019) and a new Accelerated High-Speed Internet Program (2021), will support infrastructure expansion to provide 100 percent access across all regions of the province by the end of 2025.

Ontario’s recent actions and investments include:

  • Moving forward with the plan to bring high-speed internet to all communities by the end of 2025 with an investment of nearly $4 billion.
  • Introducing and passing the Supporting Broadband and Infrastructure Expansion Act, 2021 to help speed up construction of high-speed internet projects and reduce barriers to deploy broadband infrastructure.
  • Committing up to $14.7 million in 13 provincial-only funded projects through the Improving Connectivity for Ontario (ICON) Program. This investment will connect over 17,000 homes and businesses with access to reliable, high-speed internet.
  • Committing up to $1.2 billion in 58 joint provincial and federal projects for large-scale fibre optics high-speed internet projects across the province. This historic agreement will bring high-speed internet to nearly 280,000 rural Ontario households in hundreds of communities across the province.
  • Committing over $109 million to Telesat’s Lightspeed Low-Earth-Orbit satellite project that will help connect remote and Northern regions to high-speed internet.
  • Strategically investing in initiatives to improve connectivity in underserved and unserved areas in Eastern Ontario (through the Eastern Ontario Regional Network) and Southwestern Ontario (through the Southwestern Integrated Fibre Technology project), and in high-speed internet projects in Northern Ontario.
  • Developing and announcing a new innovative procurement process that will be led by Infrastructure Ontario and will help connect all remaining underserved and unserved communities in Ontario.

Virtual Care

The accelerated use of virtual care during the pandemic has helped make Ontario’s health system more resilient and better able to adapt to challenges.

Ontario Health supports over 30,000 videoconferencing ‘end points’ across the province, which enable patients who are at a location of their choice (e.g., at home) or at a ‘patient host site’ (i.e., a site which ensures equitable access to videoconferencing for patients who do not have access to the required technology or who need support in order to participate in a video visit), access to over 40,000 physicians, nurses and allied health professionals, who delivered over 2.7 million virtual visits in 2020-21.

To further support health care provider adoption and quality delivery of virtual care, Ontario has also led work to verify the virtual visit solutions health care providers use for delivering virtual care and developing virtual care clinical guidelines.

Other ways the Ontario has further supported the adoption of virtual care during COVID-19 include:

  • In March 2020, rapidly implementing new temporary billing codes for physician virtual care under the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) in response to the COVID-19 pandemic in order to enable physicians to continue providing care to their patients with physical distancing and other public health measures in place. Since this was put in place overall virtual care adoption has increased:
    • Over 29,000 physicians provide at least one virtual service
    • 9.9 million unique patients have had at least one virtual visit
  • Supporting the rapid implementation of regional and provincial virtual care initiatives. These projects provide patients with a variety of options to safely access health care services during the pandemic: for example, through using devices in the home to transmit clinical data back to providers or to share wound photos or pain scores to name but a few. By the end of the last fiscal year:
    • More than 21,000 patients, including almost 19,000 patients diagnosed with COVID-19, were enrolled for remote care monitoring, ensuring that they could receive appropriate care and reducing the risk of infection for our frontline health care workers.
    • More than 800 patients were enrolled in virtual surgical transition programs, enabling surgical patients to connect with their clinicians from their own homes and addressing hospital capacity and surge challenges related to COVID-19.
    • Twenty-seven projects targeted at front-line home and community care service providers including First Nations, urban Indigenous organizations, community agencies and home care service provider organizations were funded to enable important supports like virtual palliative care and virtual seniors’ programs during the pandemic.

BACKGROUNDER

Working for Workers Act, 2021

The Ontario government is introducing legislative changes today that would, if passed, make the province the best place for people to work, live and raise a family.

Today, the government will introduce the Working for Workers Act, 2021 that would, if passed:

  • Require employers with 25 or more employees to have a written policy about employees disconnecting from their job at the end of the workday to help employees spend more time with their families. Learn more.
  • Ban the use of non-compete agreements that prevent people from exploring other work opportunities in order to make it easier for workers to advance in their careers. Learn more.
  • Help remove barriers, such as Canadian experience requirements, for internationally trained individuals to get licenced in a regulated profession and get access to jobs that match their qualifications and skills. Learn more.
  • Require recruiters and temporary help agencies to have a licence to operate in the province to help protect vulnerable employees from being exploited. Learn more.
  • Require business owners to allow delivery workers to use a company’s washroom if they are delivering or picking up items. This supports the delivery drivers, couriers and truck drivers who have kept our essential supplies and economy going throughout the pandemic. Learn more.
  • Allow surpluses in the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board’s Insurance Fund to be distributed over certain levels to businesses, helping them cope with the impacts of COVID-19. Learn more.
  • Enable the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board to work with entities, like the Canada Revenue Agency, to streamline remittances for businesses, enabling a way to give them an efficient one-stop-shop for submitting premiums and payroll deductions. Learn more.
  • Allow the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs to collect information related to the agri-food workforce to ensure the government can enhance the coordination of services such as vaccination and testing, and respond to issues that may arise.
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