The use of temporary workers is quite common. In fact, in North America, over three million workers are employed through staffing agencies every week! If that’s not enough to make you believe that tons of employers are using staffing agencies to fill positions, consider this: by 2020, 40% of the average business’ workforce in North America will be comprised of workers employed by staffing agencies. That’s a lot of labour being supplied through temporary staffing agencies.
Temporary workers get a lot of the same protection as permanent workers since Bill 18: The Stronger Workplace for a Stronger Economy Act was passed in 2014. For example, temporary workers need to be paid the same as permanent employees if they are doing the same work.
What is a Temporary Worker?
Temporary workers are not permanent organizational employees. They often only work for a company for short time. They’re sometimes called seasonal workers or “temps.” Workers who find jobs through staffing agencies sometimes get a bad reputation, but organizations value temporary workers. They are a key part of the overall strategy that helps the organization meet important targets and goals. Some people think that temporary workers can’t find “real” jobs, or that they don’t work as hard. On the contrary, temporary workers are usually in high demand, especially temporary workers with sought-after skills. As well, temporary workers work as hard as full-time staff, especially if they are hoping to secure full-time employment at their temporary placement.
Why Would an Employer Choose a Temporary Worker over Hiring a Permanent Worker?
There are many reasons that an employer might decide to hire a temporary worker. For instance:
- The business may have a busy season that requires extra staff for short periods of time
- There may be unexpected large orders that require extra staff
- Temporary workers are usually available immediately
- The organization may not want to use their own time to hire temporary workers, so they outsource the function to a staffing agency
- There may be a project that requires a highly specialized worker for a short time period
- There may be temporary absences that need filling, as in the case of illnesses, vacations, and short-term leaves of absence
- It may be the organization’s preference to only fill permanent positions with workers who have been placed temporarily through staffing agencies
What Responsibilities Do Employers have When it Comes to Temporary Workers?
General Duties: Employers definitely have responsibilities when it comes to temporary workers. In fact, all of the duties under Section 25 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act (the Act) apply to employers who use temporary workers. Section 25(2)(h), “take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of a worker,” applies to workers supplied through staffing agencies as well as all regular workers.
Remuneration: Did you know, in Ontario, there are laws in place to ensure that temporary workers get paid fairly? In 2018 the Employment Standards Act (ESA) in Ontario was updated to include the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, which includes an equal pay for equal work provision. Temporary workers technically work for the staffing agency, so employers don’t need to worry about their payroll. However, employers must work in conjunction with the staffing agency to ensure that hours are accurately reported, and workers are compensated properly and fairly. In Ontario, temporary workers must be paid fairly, which usually means that they are paid the same as permanent workers if they’re doing the same work.
Orientation and Job Training: Employers must provide orientation training to temporary workers that includes the same information that permanent workers receive. Employers must also provide specific job training so that temporary workers understand the job and what is expected of them, as well as how to use any tools, machines, or processes involved in the work.
Health and Safety Training: Whether it is conducted prior to job placement through the staffing agency, or it’s provided by the employer, all workers must receive health and safety training before commencing work, as per s.25(2)(a) of the Act. If basic awareness training is provided through the agency, employers must still do their due diligence by ensuring that is was adequate, completed, and that the workers understood the safety messages. Training needs to include:
- Training on the organization’s health and safety policy and procedures
- Workplace violence and harassment training
- WHMIS training
- General Worker Awareness training, including worker rights
- Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities (AODA)
- Training to use any specific or special personal protective equipment (PPE)
- Equipment training, if applicable
Employer’s must recognize, and allow temporary workers to exercise the three worker rights:
- The right to participate
- The right to know
- The right to refuse unsafe work
Temporary workers have the same rights under the Act as permanent workers.
Follow the Law: Employers must follow the law, even when it comes to temporary workers. They are still bound by:
- Constitutional Law
- The Human Rights Code
- The AODA
- The Employment Standards Act
- The Occupational Health and Safety Act and Regulations
Employers need to keep all workers safe—permanent and temporary alike! Many employers who rely on temporary workers choose to work with reputable staffing agencies that can often offer guidance and advice to ensure that employers are fulfilling their responsibilities. If you have questions about keeping your temporary workers safe and happy, please contact us—our experts would be happy to help.
Written by Jenn Miller | Curriculum Development Coordinator
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