In July 2008, the Board of the Governors of the Law Commission of Ontario (“LCO”) approved a Project to consider the degree of regulatory protection afforded persons in various forms of “precarious” employment. The Project emphasizes the disproportionate impact of precarious employment on diverse communities, particularly racialized men and women and women of majority communities, considers the impact of precarious work on vulnerable workers beyond their employment and has the objective of developing recommendations to ameliorate the situation of vulnerable workers, taking into account the needs of employers and the benefits to Ontario society at large. The LCO adopts a multidimensional approach to precariousness to reflect an appreciation of the relationship between precarious employment and the vulnerability of employees. In short, concern rests with both paid work and with people.


This Background Paper reviews the nature of precarious employment, the identity of vulnerable workers, the existing protections for employees engaged in these forms of paid work, the limitations of the protective legislation, the challenges and difficulties in enforcing rights under existing legislation, the impact of precarious work on the daily lives of vulnerable workers and some of the potential responses. It has been distributed to stakeholders for comment, as well as posted on the LCO website. Based on the LCO’s independent research, the written responses to this Paper and the Consultation Paper and pro-active consultations, the LCO will prepare recommendations for legislative and broader public policy action. The LCO will incorporate academic, community and experiential expertise in reaching its recommendations. Detailed instructions on providing input are set out in the final section of this Paper.


This Paper is not intended to be an exhaustive review, nor is it meant to preclude the advancement of potential solutions other than the ones referred to in Section VII below. The LCO looks to stakeholders and their expert knowledge to raise issues the LCO has not raised and to propose remedies that the Paper has not addressed, including responses to precarious work and the situation of vulnerable workers in contemplation of anticipated labour market and immigration trends. The LCO invites workers engaged in precarious work who have experienced or are experiencing the conditions of “vulnerability” to tell us about your experiences and organizations who serve vulnerable workers, employers, government and academics to provide your views. Stakeholders may find the shorter version of the Paper useful. It includes specific questions on which the LCO welcomes input. It is available on the LCO’s website at

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