Overview

Beginning on July 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.

The ministry began accepting applications for a licence in July 2023.

Where applications are made before July 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

System maintenance

You cannot start a new application at this time due to system maintenance. Please check this page for updates on availability of the application forms. If you have already submitted your application it remains valid and will be processed.

All active draft applications remain available to users. Information can be saved in the system for 14 days. If the 14-day period expires, a new application is required. You can start a new application when the functionality is again available.

The requirement to have a licence to operate as a temporary help agency or act as a recruiter is not in effect until July 1, 2024.

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 - which includes corporations, partnerships and individuals/sole proprietorships - who, for a fee, finds or attempts to find employment (whether the employment is temporary or permanent) in Ontario for prospective employees, or finds, or attempts to find, employees (to be employed on a temporary or permanent basis) 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 Crown in right of Ontario, the Crown in right of Canada or a municipality 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 could apply for a licence starting in July 2023 and are prohibited from operating without a licence starting July 1, 2024, unless the transitional rule applies.

Transitional rule for applications submitted before July 1, 2024

If you submitted your application before July 1, 2024 and have not received a decision on your application from the ministry by July 1, 2024, you are allowed to continue to operate as a temporary help agency or act as a recruiter on and after July 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 July 1, 2024

If you apply on or after July 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 initial application must be accompanied by an electronic irrevocable letter of credit that meets specific requirements. There are no exceptions. No other type of financial security is accepted.

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

Letter of credit requirements

To be acceptable, the letter of credit must:

  • be made in favour of the Director of Employment Standards
  • include a statement that it is being provided for the obligations of the applicant “under the Employment Standards Act, 2000 and or the Employment Protection for Foreign Nationals Act, 2009”
  • be issued by a bank that is listed in Schedule I, II or III of the Bank Act (Canada), or by a credit union within the meaning of the Credit Unions and Caisses Populaires Act, 2020.
    • Schedules I and II of the Bank Act (Canada) contain a list of authorized banks in Canada. An irrevocable letter of credit that is issued by any bank that is listed in Schedule I or II will meet this requirement.
    • Schedule III contains a list of authorized foreign banks.  An irrevocable letter of credit that is issued by any branch of a bank that is listed in Schedule III, whether that branch is in Canada or outside of Canada, will meet this requirement
  • be electronic
    • This can include providing an electronic version of a “paper document”.  For example, an applicant can upload a .pdf version of an irrevocable letter of credit that is printed on paper into the online application system.
  • be in the amount of $25,000 Canadian dollars
  • be irrevocable so it cannot be recalled or repealed during its term
  • automatically renew when it expires.  The letter of credit may include a statement that it will not automatically renew when it expires if the bank or credit union provides notice to the Director of Employment Standards, but only if the amount of notice specified is 90 days or more.
  • 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
  • be written in English or in French
  • have no other conditions

Application fee

There is an application fee of $750.00. This applies to your initial application and to your annual renewal applications. 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 July 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 July 1, 2024. If an application is submitted on or after July 1, 2024, the applicant cannot operate unless and until a licence is issued.

Find information about the status of applications and licences.

How long a licence lasts

A licence to operate as a temporary help agency or to act as a recruiter generally expires one year after the date it was issued or renewed.

However, if the temporary help agency or recruiter holds a licence and applies to renew that licence before it expires, the licence remains valid until the Director of Employment Standards approves the licence renewal or serves notice that the renewal application is refused.

Licence renewal

In order to renew a licence, a new application needs to be completed and submitted and the $750.00 application fee must be paid.

Detailed information about the renewal of licences will be available at a later date. This information will explain the renewal process, including the steps a licence holder must take to apply for a renewal.

Users of temporary help agencies and recruiters

Starting July 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 July 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.

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

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

Enforcement of licensing rules

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

  • ordering compliance
  • issuing monetary penalties
  • prosecution

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 July 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: