In July 2008, the Board of Governors of the Law Commission of Ontario (“LCO”) approved a project on vulnerable workers and precarious work. Precarious work can be briefly described as short-term work with low pay and few benefits that may be dangerous; workers are also unlikely to have a voice in the workplace. Vulnerable workers are the workers who do precarious work; they include part-time, temporary and “self-employed” workers, for example. The workers’ “vulnerability” derives from their working conditions and to some extent from the social response to demographic characteristics


The Board of Governors selects projects in areas of the law that need review for many reasons. The vulnerable workers project addresses a situation on which much has been written and about which much has been spoken; nevertheless, the issues that have been identified for the most part appear to remain challenges. Accordingly, the LCO believes that the situation of vulnerable workers doing precarious work requires assessment by an independent and impartial body such as the LCO.


This LCO project reviews the nature of precarious work, the identity of vulnerable workers, the existing protections for workers engaged in these forms of paid work, the limitations of the protective legislation, the challenges and difficulties of enforcing rights under existing legislation, the impact of precarious work on the daily lives of vulnerable workers and some of the potential responses.


The decline of manufacturing, rapid technological advances, changes in immigration policy and global migration of people and corporations have all affected the nature and extent of precarious work. There will be more change in the future and those contributing to this project are invited to help the LCO understand what these changes might be and the impact on vulnerable workers, including the opportunities these changes may provide for improving the conditions of vulnerable workers.


This Consultation Paper sets out the issues that the LCO is considering, along with questions on which the LCO would particularly like feedback, although submissions and comments on any aspect of this topic are welcome.



Some readers may wish to read the companion Background Paper which explores the issues in greater detail. Feedback on the Background Paper is also welcome. It is not necessary to read the Background Paper, however, to contribute to the vulnerable workers and precarious work project.



The LCO seeks comments in writing, including by email or in the comment box on our website, by telephone, by web conferencing and in person. More information on how to make comments and be part of the consultation process in this project is included at the end of this Consultation Paper.


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