Labour Mobility: By two-to-one margin, Canadians support banning non-compete clauses

In the wake of Ontario banning the clauses in 2021, widespread support to see them banned elsewhere


January 11, 2024 – The labour market is uncertain as Canadian workers trudge into 2024, with some experts expecting caution to be the operating principle for both businesses and employees, after recent years rife with upheaval.

One element that may help to free up labour mobility is a policy already implemented in Ontario. In 2021, the province banned non-compete clauses, which are written into the contracts of some employees, barring them from working for employer’s competitors for a time after leaving their initial position.

According to new data from the non-profit Angus Reid Institute, this idea is largely popular among the Canadian public, with half of Canadians (52%) saying that this should be the standard in Canada, and half as many (27%) opposing a ban.

Support for doing away with non-competes is highest in B.C. and Ontario, and while still a plurality view, lowest in Saskatchewan.

Advocates for non-compete clauses suggest that they are needed to prevent competitors from gaining an unfair advantage when hiring recently departed employees from rivals. This argument is more popular among Canadians older than 54 but does not rise higher than 32 per cent among any age and gender grouping.

 

 

About ARI

The Angus Reid Institute (ARI) was founded in October 2014 by pollster and sociologist, Dr. Angus Reid. ARI is a national, not-for-profit, non-partisan public opinion research foundation established to advance education by commissioning, conducting and disseminating to the public accessible and impartial statistical data, research and policy analysis on economics, political science, philanthropy, public administration, domestic and international affairs and other socio-economic issues of importance to Canada and its world.

 

In 2021, Ontario became the first province in Canada to ban non-compete clauses. The clause is written into the contracts of some employees, barring them from working from the employer’s competitors for a certain period after they are no longer working for the employer’s company. One-quarter (27%) of Canadians say they have been subject to a non-compete clause, similar numbers to those seen in the United States (see detailed tables).

Prior to Ontario’s banning of the clauses, employment lawyers had sounded the alarm that non-compete clauses were becoming more common. This despite the clauses often failing to stand up to court challenges, where judges often strike them down for being too broad. That also aligns with the legal situation in the U.S., where the National Labor Relations Board published legal guidance arguing that non-compete agreements can violate federal labour law if they’re too all-encompassing.

Canadians are twice as likely to support (52%) as oppose (27%) the banning of non-compete clauses in the wake of Ontario’s decision. At least half of all demographics support banning these clauses:

A majority (56%) in Ontario support the banning of non-compete clauses. There is also a high level of support for banning the clauses in B.C. (56%) and Alberta (55%). Saskatchewan and Quebec are the only two provinces where fewer than half (44%) support banning non-compete clauses, but still a plurality would support the Ontario law in their province:

There is some agreement on this matter across political affiliations. Majorities of past CPC (54%), Liberal (56%) and NDP (57%) support banning non-compete clauses.

Survey Methodology:

The Angus Reid Institute conducted an online survey from Aug. 25-29, 2023 among a representative randomized sample of 2,023 Canadian adults who are members of Angus Reid Forum. For comparison purposes only, a probability sample of this size would carry a margin of error of +/- 2 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. Discrepancies in or between totals are due to rounding. The survey was self-commissioned and paid for by ARI.

For detailed results by age, gender, region, education, and other demographics, click here.

To read the full report, including detailed tables and methodology, click here.

To read the questionnaire, click here.

Image – Gabrielle Henderson/Unsplash

MEDIA CONTACT:

Shachi Kurl, President: 604.908.1693 shachi.kurl@angusreid.org @shachikurl

Dave Korzinski, Research Director: 250.899.0821 dave.korzinski@angusreid.org @davekorzinski

Jon Roe, Research Associate: 825.437.1147 jon.roe@angusreid.org @thejonroe

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