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Frequently Asked Questions About Working Through a Temporary Agency

This article is from the Workers' Action Centre. It also has information from the Ministry of Labour.
Published in 2010.

If you are working through a temporary agency, this article is for you. It has information about your rights at work and what to do if there are problems on the job.

If there is a problem that you are facing and it is not dealt with in this article, please give the Workers' Action Centre (WAC) a call at 416-531-0778.

What are my rights as a temporary worker?

If you are working through a temporary agency, you are covered under the Employment Standards Act like all other workers. For more information about your rights under the ESA, see the Ministry of Labour's webpage on employment standards for temporary help agency employees or call them at 1-800-531-5551.

Are there any jobs that are not covered by the ESA?

Some workers, like farm workers, information technology workers, superintendents and people working in 24-hour operations, are not covered under the law equally. Find out more about who is covered by the ESA.

Signing a Contract

You cannot sign away your rights. If you sign a contract that is illegal (example: it says that the employer will not pay overtime) your boss is breaking the law, not you. The boss should not be making an illegal offer. Even if you sign an illegal contract, you are still entitled to your rights under the law. Write down all details of the hours and dates you work. This will help you claim your wages when you are ready.

Probation

This is a "trial period" set by the company to see if the job is a good match for you and your set of skills. The length of a probation period is up to the boss, it is not part of the law. If you are fired after working for more than 3 months, you may be owed termination pay or notice even if your boss says you are still on probation.

Paying a Fee for Employment

The Workers' Action Centre is concerned that "job-finding" services take advantage of workers, often new immigrants who are looking for work, by charging fees. You should not pay any money to these agencies.

What is minimum wage?

You must be paid at least the minimum wage for every hour you work. Always check to be sure you know what the current minimum wage is.

Cash Payments

Your boss can pay you in cash. This is legal. But he must give you a record or "pay slip" every time you are paid. A boss paying you in cash may not want to give you a pay slip because he wants to avoid paying the employer contributions, such as Employment Insurance (EI).

If your boss doesn't deduct EI from your pay, you may still be entitled to your benefits. You can claim it later if you have dates and hours written down. You will not have to pay any EI deductions later, your boss pays.

Do I get public holiday pay? If so, how much do I get?

As a temporary help agency assignment employee, you have the same rights to public holidays as other employees in Ontario.

Your agency may tell you that you have to work for 3 months or a certain number of hours before you can receive public holiday pay. This is illegal.

Some agencies do not pay their workers for public holidays even though they are legally obligated to do so. Agencies can no longer deny public holiday to workers by saying you are "elect to work". Call the WAC at 416-531-0778 if you do not receive public holiday pay. You may be entitled to it.

Termination Notice or Pay

Your boss can fire you with no notice if you have worked less than 3 months. When you leave, they should always give you:

  • A Record of Employment (ROE)
  • Unpaid vacation pay (4% of gross earnings)
  • Any unpaid wages, overtime pay, and so on

After 3 months, your boss must give you written notice of the date you will be fired or laid off. If they do not give you notice, they must give you termination pay instead. If you are fired because of "neglect of duty, disobedience or willful misconduct", you will not get notice or pay. But, call the WAC at 416-531-0778; minor mistakes should not be enough to deny your right to termination pay or notice.

Severance Pay

Severance pay is not the same as termination pay. To get severance pay, you must have worked for at least 5 years for your employer. Also, the employer must have an annual payroll of more than $2.5 million or must have terminated 50 or more employees in the last 6 months. Severance pay is 1 week of pay for every year worked to a maximum of 26.

What is a record of employment (ROE), and why do I need it?

Your boss must give you a Record of Employment (ROE) every time you leave a job. This document is important because it allows you to apply for Employment Insurance (EI) more easily.

You must get the ROE within 5 working days or on the next pay period.

The temp agency has to give you an ROE documenting all your assignments. If you have not worked or received income for 7 days, you are considered on lay-off. Ask the temp agency for an ROE. This does not mean you are quitting. Tell this to the temp agency.

This is not legal advice.

The Workers' Action Centre is a worker-based organization committed to improving the lives and working conditions of people in low-wage and unstable jobs.

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Last Updated: May 24, 2013
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