To prevent “delinquent” agencies from exploiting vulnerable workers, the Couillard government wants to impose, in its bill on revising labour standards, the requirement for all recruitment agencies to obtain a permit. Some explanations.
At this stage of the bill, its difficult to know what the concrete provisions will be. Without giving much detail, the Couillard government has announced that its plan to revise labour standards would include the obligation for placement agencies to hold a permit, undoubtedly in response to recent reports — especially those from the Enquête broadcast, which revealed dubious practices.
Certain agencies recruit vulnerable immigrants whose papers are not in order and make them work on the black market, without providing protection against potential abuse by their employers. “These practices are indeed worrying,” emphasizes Marc-André Robert, Quebec spokesperson for the Association of Canadian Search, Employment & Staffing Services and partner with Global Ressources Humaines Inc.
“This bill,” Marc-André Robert says, “contributes to forging a negative perception of our industry, while the few delinquent agencies are probably less than 5% of it. Nonetheless, we are in favour of the permit, if it can reassure the population about our good practices and if it actually reduces the number of agencies with illegal practices.”
Most placement agencies, according to Marc-André Robert, comply in all respects with the labour standards and work closely with Revenu Québec, which now requires them to obtain a “certificate of compliance”.
It should be noted that in the current state of the law a placement agency that recruits a worker is considered to be his or her employer. It therefore has the duty to comply with the laws governing the practices of any employer: respect for the labour standards, including with regard to salary, holidays and establishing a climate free from harassment. It must also apply the occupational health and safety standards.
However, according to Québec Solidaire, which is hounding the government on this issue, there are problematic cases of agencies taking advantage of “legal grey areas” and leaving these responsibilities to the client company. “Although this is true,” says Marc-André Robert, “there are not many of these agencies, but it’s important to put them back on the right road.”
How will this new obligation be perceived by agency owners? “There are some administrative expenses that will cause some gnashing of teeth, but most will comply without complaining, for the sake of the profession.”