By Allison Jones via The Canadian Press

Ontario plans to explicitly ban unpaid trial shifts for restaurant and hospitality workers as well as strengthen rules against deducting employee wages in the event of customer theft.

The proposed amendments are the latest in a series of labour law changes in legislation tabled on Tuesday by Labour Minister David Piccini.

While it is already the law that employees must be paid for all hours worked, Piccini said unpaid trial shifts are still happening as part of the interview process in some restaurants. If passed the legislation will specifically prohibit the practice.

Similarly, labour laws already prohibit employers from deducting wages due to lost or stolen property, but new language will specifically ban it in instances of dine-and-dash or gas-and-dash, Piccini said.

As well, while current laws permit employers to share in pooled tips if they are performing the same work as their staff, the legislation to be introduced today would require the employers to tell employees if they are doing that.

Piccini says due to the rise of digital payment apps, including some that charge workers a fee to access their tips, the bill will also specify that employees who get paid their tips via direct deposit can choose where that money gets deposited.

“We’re seeing apps that are taking a cut every time … a worker accesses their tips and that’s not acceptable,” Piccini said in an interview.

“I mean, imagine telling an office worker they’re going to get dinged every time they access their paycheques. We wouldn’t say it’s acceptable there, so why would we say it’s acceptable for those in the hospitality and service sector?”

Bill to ban mandatory Canadian work experience

The Workers’ Action Centre said in a statement that the government is failing to meaningfully enforce the existing laws that prevent actions such as deducting wages due to theft. The group pointed to Ministry of Labour investigations, inspections and prosecutions under the Employment Standards Act being far lower than in 2018-19.

The group also noted that the government has so far failed to pass a private member’s bill by Progressive Conservative member Deepak Anand that would require customers to pre-pay for gasoline to prevent gas-and-dash thefts. It was referred to committee in April but no hearings have been scheduled.

Other changes contained in the new legislation include several aimed at the recruiting and hiring process. The bill would ban employers from requiring Canadian work experience in job postings or application forms, something Piccini said will help newcomers get more of a foot in the door in order to offer their valuable skills and experience.

Job postings would also be required to include salary ranges and businesses will have to disclose whether artificial intelligence is part of their hiring process, in part due to concerns about data collection and personal privacy.

The legislation would also boost payments to injured workers by enabling increases to Workplace Safety and Insurance Board benefits to be “super indexed” to a rate above inflation.

As well, it would allow more firefighters and fire investigators to qualify for WSIB benefits due to esophageal cancer. Currently, firefighters and fire investigators have to have been on the job for 25 years before esophageal cancer would be considered a work-related illness.

The new legislation would also increase the number of international students in Ontario eligible for the Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program by revising eligibility requirements to allow students from one-year college graduate certificate programs to apply.

As well, it would change how regulated professions such as accounting, architecture and geoscience use third-party organizations to assess international qualifications, which the government says would improve oversight and accountability.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on CBC News on November 14, 2023.