Significant Amendments to the Canada Labour Code

September 10, 2019

"...changes were effected to the Code throughout 2019 and additional changes are anticipated in 2020.  In this blog, I outline key changes that have occurred, and which are expected to occur in 2020."

In Ontario (and across Canada for that matter), employers must abide by minimum standards legislation.  That legislation can be either provincially or federally based.  The Employment Standards Act, 2000 (“ESA”), in Ontario, is provincial legislation and the Canada Labour Code (“Code”) is federal legislation.

Changes to the ESA in 2018 under Bill 148 received quite a bit of press, as did the subsequent roll back of significant parts of that that legislation in 2019 under Bill 47.

Similar changes were effected to the Code throughout 2019 and additional changes are anticipated in 2020.  In this blog, I outline key changes that have occurred, and which are expected to occur in 2020.

A more comprehensive outline of these changes, and more, is summarized in a paper I prepared for the 2019 Employment Law Summit.  Please contact us if you would like a copy of that paper.

2019 Changes

Canada Occupational Health and Safety Regulations

Effective July 10, 2019, the Canada Occupational Health and Safety Regulations were amended to reflect up to date standards for safety equipment. Updates were made to the systems, procedures, clothing and safety material under Part XII of the Regulation relating to Protective Equipment and Other Preventive Measures.  The updates include changes to headwear, footwear, eye and face protection, respiratory protection, fall-protection systems and instructions and training; just to name a few.

Enforcement, Reprisals and Adjudication

Effective April 1, 2019, an employee will be entitled to recover unpaid wages owing from up to 24 months prior to their complaint or date of termination.

Employees can make complaints to the Canadian Industrial Relations Board if they feel they have been reprised against for making a complaint under the Code, requesting information about their Code related rights or participating in a Code related proceeding as a witness. Complaints must be brought within 90 days of the alleged reprisal.

Changes to Hours, Wages, Vacation and Holidays

Effective September 1, 2019, the following amendments were made to the Code:

  • Employees are entitled to an unpaid break of at least 30 minutes during every period of five consecutive hours of work.
  • Employees are entitled to a rest period of at least eight consecutive hours between work periods or shifts.
  • Employees are entitled to unpaid breaks necessary for medical reasons and must provide a certificate setting out the length and frequency of the breaks.
  • Employees are entitled to breaks for the purpose of nursing or to express breast milk.
  • Employers must provide employees with their schedule at least 96 hours prior to the start of the first shift.
  • In the event of a shift change, employers must provide at least 24 hours’ notice of any shift changes.
  • Overtime compensation is permitted in the form of a premium equal to 1.5 times the employee’s regular rate, or time off with pay equal to 1.5 hours of time off for each hour of overtime worked.
  • Employees are entitled to vacation with pay as follows: 2 weeks after one year of employment, three weeks after five consecutive years of employment, and four weeks after ten consecutive years of employment.
  • All employees, regardless of length of service, are now entitled to Holiday Pay.
  • Employees are no longer required to complete six (6) months of consecutive continuous employment in order to be entitled to the following leaves of absence: maternity or parental, critical illness leave in relation to a critically ill child or adult family member, and leave of absence for 104 weeks if a child has died.
  • Employees who have completed six (6) months of continuous employment may request changes to their work schedules, hours, location of work and any other prescribed terms or conditions.
  • In the event of a transfer of business, whereby a provincially regulated business becomes federally-regulated, the employment of the business’ employees will be deemed to be continuous i.e. there will be no break in service.
  • Employee Leave of Absence Entitlements on various grounds, including personal and family leave, medical leave, bereavement leave and jury duty leave.

2020 Changes

There are further amendments to the Code which are anticipated to come into force in 2020 or sometime thereafter. Here are the highlights:

  • Misclassification: The code will prohibit employers from treating employees as if they were not their employees in order to avoid their obligations under the Code.

Interns: employers may engage unpaid student internships in certain approved circumstances.  All other interns would be treated as employees and covered by all labour standards protections, including the right to be paid at least minimum wage.

  • Minimum Age of Employment: Subject to certain exceptions, employers would be prohibited from employing anyone under the age of 18.
  • Equal Treatment: Employers must pay the same rate of pay to employees who perform the same kind of work. Employees will be entitled to request a review of their wage rates.
  • Temporary Agency Employees: Employers will have a number of restrictions with respect to temporary agency employees, including prohibiting fees and attempts to prevent employment relationships with a client. Equal treatment provisions will also apply with respect to the payment of wages.
  • Group Terminations: New requirements for 16 weeks’ written notice of termination to terminations of 50 or more people in a 4-week period and 8 weeks’ notice of termination to each affected employee.
  • Individual Terminations: A graduated notice obligation, depending on length of service, will replace the current requirement of two (2) weeks’ notice of termination.  Notice obligations will range between 2 and 8 weeks depending on length of service.
  • Workplace Harassment and Violence: The Code will repeal the existing patchwork of laws and policies, replacing it with a more comprehensive scheme.
  • Administrative Monetary Penalties: The Code will include a new Part that will constitute a comprehensive enforcement regime for Parts II and III of the Code. The Division will set out a number of administrative monetary penalties according to the severity and category of violation.

If you need further information or advice with respect to how these amendments affect your workplace and business, please contact the lawyers at Bandhu Lakhani Campea LLP for assistance.


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