Overview

Beginning on January 1, 2024 under the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA):

  • Temporary help agencies are required to hold a licence to operate.
  • Recruiters are required to hold a licence to act as a recruiter.
    • Employers, prospective employers and other recruiters are prohibited from knowingly engaging or using the services of any recruiter that does not hold a licence.

You can apply for a licence starting in July 2023.

Where applications are made before January 1, 2024, there is a transitional rule that may apply.

The ministry maintains a website that lists certain licensing information including:

  • licence holders, along with the status of their licence
  • applicants seeking a licence
  • any other information that is required to be published under the ESA or its regulations

Who is required to have a licence

The licensing requirements apply to temporary help agencies and recruiters. These terms are defined in the ESA and its regulations.

Temporary help agencies

A temporary help agency is an employer that employs persons for the purpose of assigning them to perform work on a temporary basis for clients of the employer. If a temporary help agency is located outside of Ontario, but assigns employees to work in Ontario, the licensing requirements apply.

Learn more about what is a temporary help agency under the ESA.

Recruiters

A recruiter is any person who, for a fee, finds or attempts to find employment in Ontario for prospective employees, or finds, or attempts to find, employees for prospective employers in Ontario, but does not include the following:

  • an employee who performs the functions described above as a duty of the employee’s position
  • an employer who finds or attempts to find employees to be employed in the employer’s own organization
  • certain educational institutions
  • a trade union
  • a registered charity
  • a person who:
    • is party to an agreement with the government (federal, provincial or municipal) to find or attempt to find employment in Ontario for prospective employees or to find or attempt to find employees for prospective employers in Ontario, and
    • does not perform these functions outside of those government agreements
  • a person who:

A recruiter does not have to be located in Ontario for the licensing requirements to apply.

Learn more about who is a recruiter under the ESA.

Every legal entity must apply separately

Every legal entity that operates as a temporary help agency or that acts as a recruiter must apply for a licence. Legal entities that are treated as one employer under s. 4 of the Employment Standards Act, 2000 must apply separately. Each application requires an application fee and a letter of credit.

If a legal entity operates as a temporary help agency and acts as a recruiter, it must submit two separate applications: one to operate as a temporary help agency and one to act as a recruiter. Each application requires a separate application fee and separate letter of credit.

Important dates for licensing requirements

Temporary help agencies and recruiters can apply for a licence starting in July 2023 and are prohibited from operating without a licence starting January 1, 2024, unless the transitional rule applies.

Transitional rule for applications submitted before January 1, 2024

If you submitted your application before January 1, 2024 and have not received a decision on your application from the ministry by January 1, 2024, you are allowed to continue to operate as a temporary help agency or act as a recruiter on and after January 1, 2024. This applies until the ministry notifies you either that a licence has been issued or that the application for a licence has been refused.

Learn what happens if your application is refused.

Applications submitted on or after January 1, 2024

If you apply on or after January 1, 2024, you are prohibited from operating as a temporary help agency or acting as a recruiter unless and until the ministry issues a licence to you.

Violations of the licensing provisions in the ESA may result in enforcement action, which can include:

  • ordering compliance
  • issuing monetary penalties
  • prosecution

Apply online

You must submit your application online.

You can save the information you have entered after you complete each step and you can continue with the application later. Your information will be saved for 14 days.

What you will need to provide in the application

The following list provides some examples of the information and documentation needed to complete your application:

  • contact information, including email addresses, for one or more individuals who may be contacted if the ministry has questions about the application
  • the address of each location where the applicant carries on business inside and outside of Canada
  • if the applicant is a corporation, the names and addresses of each corporate officer and director
  • if the applicant is a partnership, the names and addresses of each partner
  • information with respect to the applicant, corporate officers and directors, and partners about similar applications and licences in other Canadian jurisdictions
  • information about certain criminal convictions of the applicant, corporate officers and directors, or partners, and whether they are subject to a ban under the Ontario Immigration Act, 2015
  • information about other legal persons (which include businesses and individuals) the applicant engages or uses in connection with the recruitment or employment of foreign nationals
  • information about compliance with the:
  • tax compliance verification number obtained from the Ontario Ministry of Finance showing tax compliance
  • an electronic irrevocable letter of credit.

Electronic irrevocable letter of credit

Each application must be accompanied by an electronic irrevocable letter of credit that meets specific requirements.

Letter of credit requirements

To be acceptable, the letter of credit must:

  • be made in favour of the Director of Employment Standards,
  • be issued by a bank in Canada or credit union
  • be electronic
  • be in the amount of $25,000
  • be irrevocable so it cannot be recalled or repealed
  • automatically renew when it expires
  • permit “partial drawings” without any conditions, meaning that the Director of Employment Standards can, for reasons set out in the regulation and in accordance with the prescribed processes, demand and receive a payment less than the entire amount specified in the letter of credit
  • have no other conditions

We recommend you use our template for irrevocable letters of credit to ensure your letter of credit meets all requirements.

Application fee

You must pay an application fee of $750.00 to apply. This fee is not refundable. This payment can be made online by:

  • Mastercard
  • Mastercard debit
  • Visa
  • Visa debit

If your application is refused

If your application is refused, you will be able to file an application with the Ontario Labour Relations Board to review the decision.

If you submit your initial application for a licence before January 1, 2024 and your application is refused, you may continue to operate as a temporary help agency or act as a recruiter for 30 days after the day the ministry serves notice of the refusal. If you choose to file an application with the Ontario Labour Relations Board to review the decision, you can also continue to operate during the review process unless the Board orders otherwise.

The rules set out above about continuing to operate do not apply where the initial application was submitted on or after January 1, 2024. If an application is submitted on or after January 1, 2024, the applicant cannot operate unless and until a licence is issued.

Find information about the status of applications and licences.

Users of temporary help agencies and recruiters

Starting January 1, 2024:

  • Clients of temporary help agencies are prohibited from knowingly engaging or using the services of a temporary help agency unless the agency holds a licence to operate as a temporary help agency. Learn more about the relationship between temporary help agencies and clients. This prohibition is in effect unless the transitional rule applies to the temporary help agency. Learn more about the transitional rule.
  • Employers, prospective employers and other recruiters are prohibited from knowingly engaging or using the services of any recruiter unless the recruiter holds a licence to act as a recruiter. This prohibition is in effect unless the transitional rule applies to the recruiter. Learn more about the transitional rule.

In addition, where the temporary help agency or the recruiter submitted their initial application for a licence before January 1, 2024, the prohibition is not in effect during these two periods:

  • the 30-day period after the day on which the ministry serves the temporary help agency or recruiter notice of the refusal.
  • the period during which an application to review the refusal is ongoing with the Ontario Labour Relations Board, unless the Board orders otherwise.

Violations of these rules in the ESA may result in enforcement action, which can include:

  • ordering compliance
  • issuing monetary penalties
  • prosecution

Find out if a particular temporary help agency or recruiter is licensed

Information about the status of applications and licenses is posted on the ministry’s website.

Penalties

Employment standards officers have the power to issue notices of contravention with prescribed penalties when they believe someone has contravened a provision of the ESA.

If any person provides false or misleading information in the context of application for a temporary help agency or recruiter licence, the officer can issue a notice of contravention with the following penalties:

  • $15,000 for a first contravention
  • $25,000 for a second contravention in a three-year period
  • $50,000 for a third contravention in a three-year period

As of January 1, 2024: If an officer finds a contravention of any of the following prohibitions:

  • operating as a temporary help agency without a licence
  • acting as a recruiter without a licence
  • clients knowingly using an unlicensed temporary help agency, or
  • employers, prospective employers or other recruiters knowingly engaging or using the services of an unlicensed recruiter

The officer can issue a notice of contravention with the following penalties:

  • $15,000 for a first contravention
  • $25,000 for a second contravention in a three-year period
  • $50,000 for a third contravention in a three-year period

Contact us

Contact us about the licensing of temporary help agencies and recruiters: