From September 1, 2019 to February 14, 2020, the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development’s employment standards officers visited workplaces across Ontario to enhance protections for vulnerable workers by promoting awareness and compliance with the Employment Standards Act (ESA) and the Employment Protection for Foreign Nationals Act (EPFNA). They checked whether employers are complying with minimum standards of the ESA, such as pay periods, wage statements and record keeping. Officers also checked for compliance with the EPFNA, such as ensuring recruiters were not charging illegal fees and employers were not withholding employee’s documents.

During inspections, officers worked with employers to help them understand their responsibilities and where to access resources and tools. These types of initiatives help create a level playing field for employers by addressing underground economy practices, while ensuring the most vulnerable employees are protected.


The ESA is a law that applies to most employers and employees in Ontario and sets minimum standards for things such as pay, hours of work and time off. The ministry determines which employers, sectors and employment standards to focus on through risk-based analysis, local intelligence and third-party information.

During the vulnerable workers initiative, the ministry inspected workplaces with a focus on:

  • repeat violators: previously violated standards
  • temporary help agencies: standards that relate to pay periods, wage statements and record keeping
  • workplaces that employ temporary foreign workers: standards that relate to pay periods, wage statements, record keeping and EPFNA (e.g. illegal fees, recovery of costs by employer, withholding of documents).


  • 831 total inspections
  • 554 employers compliant (no violations found)
  • 277 employers not compliant
  • 428 compliance tools issued (compliance orders, notices of contravention, tickets or orders to pay wages)
  • 9.6% rate of voluntary compliance (percentage of money recovered during the inspection  initiative that was owed to employees and voluntarily paid by employers)
  • $322,160 recovered for employees
  • Public holiday pay, vacation pay, payment of wages and overtime pay were the most common monetary violations
  • Record keeping, wage statements, excess daily or weekly hours of work and written agreements for vacation pay were the most common non-monetary violations

Compliance enforcement summary

An employment standards officer can issue a non-monetary compliance order if the officer finds an employer has contravened the ESA. The officer can order an employer or other person to stop contravening a provision and to take certain steps to comply.

  • In total, officers issued 355 compliance orders during the initiative.

If an employer owes money to an employee (i.e. monetary contravention), and they do not voluntarily comply (by paying the employee any outstanding wages), an officer issues an order to pay wages owing to the employee.

  • In total, officers issued 22 order to pay wages during the initiative

Employment standards officers have the authority to issue notices of contravention with penalties starting at $250 when they believe an employer has contravened an ESA provision.

  • In total, officers issued 29 notices of contravention.

Help for employers

Your guide to the Employment Standards Act offers detailed information about specific employment standards rules and how they work.

After a new employee is hired, temporary help agencies must give their employees the most recent version of the Temporary Help Agency Assignment Employeesinformation sheet.

When a temporary help agency employs a foreign national or is in contact with them about employment, they must give the foreign national copies of the most recent Your Rights Under the Employment Standards Act information sheet and Your Rights Under the Employment Protection for Foreign Nationals Act information sheet.

For more information about employment standards contact the Employment Standards Information Centre at 1-800-531-5551.