Canada Modernizes Labor Code

 

By Brittany Carson, Ariane Villemaire and Véronique Morin © Lavery Lawyers July 1, 2019
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​Following in the footsteps of Ontario, Quebec and other provinces that have seen significant changes to their labor and employment legislation in recent years, federally regulated employers will now be adjusting to new amendments to the Canada Labor Code.

In 2017 and 2018, the Canadian legislature passed several laws aimed at modernizing the Canada Labor Code, ushering in new rules and regulations governing federally regulated workplaces. Some of the principal changes, which are slated to come into effect on Sept. 1, are summarized in this article.

Longer Leaves of Absence

Personal leave—Five days. Every employee will be entitled to a leave of absence of up to five days every year for:

  • Treating their illness or injury.
  • Carrying out responsibilities related to the health or care of any of their family members.
  • Carrying out responsibilities related to the education of any of their family members who are under 18 years of age.
  • Addressing any urgent matter concerning themselves or their family members.
  • Attending their citizenship ceremony under the citizenship act.
  • Any other reason prescribed by regulation.

After three consecutive months of employment, employees will be entitled to take the first three days of absence with pay.

Victims of family violence—10 days. Every employee who is a victim of family violence or who is the parent of a child who is a victim of family violence will be entitled to take a leave of absence of up to 10 days every year for various reasons specifically mentioned in the Canada Labor Code, namely to seek medical attention, obtain psychological or other professional counselling, or relocate temporarily or permanently.

After three consecutive months of employment, employees will be entitled to the first five days of absence with pay.

Court or jury duty leave. Every employee will be entitled to take a leave of absence to attend court to act as a witness or a juror in a proceeding or to participate in the jury selection process.

Leave for traditional Aboriginal practices—Five days. Aboriginal employees who have completed three consecutive months of continuous employment will be entitled to take a leave of absence of up to five days every year in order to engage in traditional Aboriginal practices, such as hunting, fishing, harvesting and any practice prescribed by regulation.

Bereavement leave—Five days. In the event of the death of a member of his or her immediate family, every employee will be entitled to five days of bereavement leave, which is two more than the current entitlement. But only the first three days of this leave will be paid at the employee's regular wage rate.

Holiday pay. Employees will no longer have to work a minimum of 30 days to be entitled to receive holiday pay for a general holiday.

Increase in Vacation Entitlements

Employees will be entitled to more generous vacation time and pay. After one year of employment, they will be entitled to two weeks' vacation time and vacation pay in the amount of 4 percent of their wages during the year of employment.

After five years of employment, they will be entitled to three weeks' vacation time and vacation pay in the amount of 6 percent of their wages during the year of employment.

After 10 years of employment, they will be entitled to four weeks' vacation time and vacation pay in the amount of 8 percent of their wages during the year of employment.

The rules regarding when to take the vacation will not change. As a result, the employer must provide the employee with the vacation to which he or she is entitled, which is to begin no later than 10 months immediately following the completion of the year of employment during which the employee became entitled to the vacation. Also, the employer shall provide employees with vacation pay within 14 days of the beginning of the vacation or on the regular pay day during or immediately following the vacation.

But another new development is that the employee will be able to split his annual leave into several periods, with the written approval of the employer.

Work Schedule, Rest Period and Breaks

30-minute breaks. Every employee will be entitled to take an unpaid break of at least 30 minutes during every period of five consecutive hours of work.

But employers will be allowed to postpone or cancel the break to deal with a situation that could not have been reasonably foreseen and which presents an imminent or serious "threat to the life, health or safety of any person, threat of damage to or loss of property or threat of serious interference with the ordinary working of the employer's industrial establishment."

Breaks for medical reasons or for nursing. Subject to the regulations, every employee will be entitled to unpaid breaks as necessary for medical reasons or for the purpose of nursing or to express breast milk.

Eight-hour rest periods. Every employee will be entitled to a rest period of at least eight consecutive hours between shifts. Employers may, however, shorten the rest period for the same reasons as were discussed regarding the postponing or the cancellation of the 30-minute break periods.

Shift changes—24-hours written notice. In the event that the employer either wants to change a period or shift during which an employee is scheduled to work or wants to add another work period or shift to the employee's schedule, the employer will have to give the employee written notice of the change or addition at least 24 hours in advance. However, the Canada Labor Code does carve out some exceptions when this notice won't be required. Most of these exceptions are the same as those that apply to the postponing or the cancellation of a 30-minute break period.

Overtime—Choice between overtime pay or time off. Subject to certain conditions, an employee who has worked overtime can now elect to receive either an hour and a half of time off with pay for each hour of overtime worked or overtime pay at a rate of wages no less than one and one-half times the regular rate.

In addition, subject to certain conditions, the employee will have the right to refuse to work overtime to carry out responsibilities related to the health or care of any of his or her family members or the education of any of his or her family members who are under 18 years of age.

Conclusion

These were only some of the amendments contained in the most recent bills aimed at modernizing the Canada Labor Code. Other changes are also expected to come into effect, such as provisions regarding:

  • Individual or group termination of employment.
  • Harassment and violence.

Furthermore, the government adopted the Regulations Amending the Canada Labor Standards Regulations, which will also come into effect on Sept. 1.

Finally, we have not yet seen the latest amendments to the Canada Labor Code, as an independent Expert Panel on Modern Federal Labor Standards was asked to report back to the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labor with advice and recommendations regarding five distinct issues:

  • Federal minimum wage.
  • Labor standards protections for nonstandard workers.
  • Disconnecting from work-related e-communications outside of work hours (sometimes known as the "right to disconnect").
  • Access and portability of benefits.
  • Collective voice for nonunionized workers.

Brittany Carson, Ariane Villemaire and Véronique Morin are attorneys with Lavery Lawyers in Montreal. © 2019 Lavery Lawyers. All rights reserved. Reposted with permission of Lexology.

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