Ontario Employers may be Obligated to Remove the Requirement of “Canadian Work Experience” in their job Postings and Hiring Process

The Ontario government has proposed legislation, that if passed, intends to address the labour shortage issues in the province. The changes aim to remove barriers for internationally-trained immigrants by helping more qualified candidates progress in the interview process.

Due to the long-standing practice in some regulated industries to require job applicants to have Canadian work experience, many newcomers are being denied job opportunities. Currently in its second reading at the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, the new legislation will prohibit regulated professions and trades in over 30 occupations such as law, accounting, architecture, engineering, electrical and plumbing from requiring Canadian work experience requirements in their licencing process.

The proposed legislative changes will expand actions already introduced by the Working for Workers Acts, 2021, 2022 and 2023, in an attempt to help newcomers contribute to the existing labour shortages in the province.

Currently, internationally-trained immigrants who often have the appropriate training, qualifications and experience, are being denied opportunities to apply to positions in regulated industries, despite the growing shortages in these areas. In 2021, the labour shortage accounted for roughly 300,000 jobs in Ontario remaining unfilled, costing the province billions in lost productivity.

In some regulated professions, licensing time can take up to 18 months or more. The Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development has stated that the requirement for Canadian work experience and costly language testing creates further unnecessary and unreasonable processing times for newcomers trying to get licenced.

In addition to the prohibition of the Canadian experience requirement, the government of Ontario is also proposing changes to improve oversight and accountability of third-party organizations used in regulated professions like accountants, architects and geoscientists to assess international qualifications. The goal is to ensure assessments of immigrant qualifications are evaluated fairly and transparently.

If passed, Ontario will be the first province to include provisions in its employment standards legislation to address the Canadian experience requirements.

Employers should be aware that violations of these proposed changes could result in discrimination liabilities under the Ontario Human Rights Code. Employers are encouraged to consult with an employment lawyer before starting their recruitment process, to ensure that their hiring practices align with the proposed amendments and adhere to Ontario’s Human Rights legislation.