The nature of employment is evolving. Evidence from Canada and other OECD countries indicates that the notion of the standard employment relationship based on full-time, continuous employment, where the worker has access to good wages and benefits, is no longer the predominant employment structure, to the extent it ever was.[1] In its place, more precarious forms of work have arisen. These changes in the nature of work and the characteristics of the emerging class of workers engaged in precarious work led to the Law Commission of Ontario’s (LCO)’s project on Vulnerable Workers and Precarious Work.

The objective of this project on Vulnerable Workers and Precarious Work is to make recommendations designed to respond to the challenges faced by vulnerable workers in precarious work. Vulnerable workers are those who work for low wages with few or no benefits, little job security and minimal control over their work conditions. They are disproportionately women, immigrants (both newcomers and those established in Canada) or racialized persons.[2] The Project focuses, in particular, on the role of the Employment Standards Act and the Occupational Health and Safety Act in protecting these workers. However, it also reviews and makes recommendations about existing community and government supports and programs for workers’ advocacy, for employers and for training and education, as well as the role of labour organizations.  

The LCO has limited its recommendations to matters within Ontario’s jurisdiction. However, it is difficult to consider the situation of some vulnerable workers without also considering the immigration context which influences their lives in Ontario. Accordingly, some recommendations address Ontario’s role in immigration policies and the consequences of these policies for Ontario workers. 

The idea for the Vulnerable Workers/Precarious Work Project arose from several sources including the Creative Symposium in November 2006 which led to the creation of the LCO, suggestions from the Labour and Feminist Legal Analysis sections of the Ontario Bar Association and the Racialization of Poverty Conference held in April 2008.[3] The Project was approved by LCO’s Board of Governors in June 2008. 

The LCO engaged in an initial literature review and consultation prior to issuing its Background and Consultation papers at the beginning of 2011. The LCO subsequently received written submissions and engaged in consultations. In preparing this Interim Report, the LCO commissioned two research papers on the extent of labour market insecurity and on approaches to enforcement and compliance.[4]

This Interim Report is the product of extensive research, consultations with and submissions from a broad range of stakeholders and advice from a Project Advisory Group.[5] The Project Advisory Group is comprised of employers’ and workers’ organizations, academics, government and others to provide feedback, advice and expertise. Project Advisory Group members participated in meetings and phone calls and their expertise was a significant factor in drafting this Interim Report. The LCO wishes to thank and acknowledge the members of the Project Advisory Group for their time and ongoing valuable contributions to this Project. The diversity of views provided by the Project Advisory Group and those stakeholders consulted has enabled the LCO to appreciate the delicate balance required to make effective and nuanced responses to the issues addressed in this Interim Report.  

The LCO seeks feedback from the public on this Interim Report to assist in developing the Final Report. Details for sending feedback can be found in Chapter VIII.


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