Labour Program: Changes to the Canada Labour Code and other acts to better protect workplaces

From: Employment and Social Development Canada

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Given current circumstances related to COVID-19, there is uncertainty regarding publication and coming into force dates. Further updates to this page will be provided as necessary.

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Get the latest information on legislative and regulatory changes affecting federally regulated industries.

Changes to labour standards

In this section

Canadians deserve to have fair working conditions, proper pay and work-life balance. This section focuses on the legislative and regulatory changes to hours of work, wages, leaves, vacation, holidays and more.

We are modernizing federal labour standards to better protect Canadian workers and help employers recruit and retain employees. The changes to the labour standards aim to:

  • improve employee eligibility for entitlements
  • improve work-life balance
  • ensure fair treatment and compensation for employees in precarious work
  • ensure sufficient notice and compensation when jobs are terminated
  • improve administration of labour standards

In 2019, the Government of Canada created the independent Expert Panel on Modern Federal Labour Standards. The objective was to consult on and provide advice on the following issues facing Canadian employers and workers:

  • federal minimum wage
  • labour standards protections for non-standard 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 non-unionized workers

Leaves (effective September 1, 2019)

Employees now have:

  • personal leave of up to 5 days (first 3 days paid for employees with at least 3 months of service)
  • leave for traditional Indigenous practices of up to 5 days
  • leave for victims of family violence of up to 10 days (first 5 days paid for employees with at least 3 months of service)
  • leave for court or jury duty for the time necessary to attend court to:
    • act as a witness or a juror
    • participate in a jury selection process
  • bereavement leave of up to 5 days (first 3 days paid for employees with at least 3 months of service)
  • access to medical leave (formerly sick leave) for appointments, to take care of an illness or an injury, or to make an organ or tissue donation

Employees no longer need to have completed a minimum period of employment with their employer to receive:

  • medical leave (formerly sick leave)
  • maternity and parental leave
  • leave related to critical illness
  • leave related to death or disappearance of a child

The requirements for length of service were reduced from 6 to 3 months of leave for members of the reserve force.
For information on all types of leaves: Types of leaves offered to federally regulated employees.

Annual vacations and general holidays (effective September 1, 2019)

Employees now have more flexibility with respect to annual vacations:

  • may take vacation in more than one period (if employer agrees)
  • may postpone or interrupt vacation if they are eligible for another leave
  • may substitute another day for a general holiday
  • 3 weeks of paid annual vacation after 5 years of service instead of 6
  • 4 weeks of paid annual vacation after 10 years of service

Employees no longer need to have completed a minimum period of employment with their employer to receive general holiday pay.

For more information:

Hours of work, overtime and other breaks (effective September 1, 2019)

Employees can benefit from predictable schedules and notices of shift changes to have greater control over their hours of work.

Employees can:

  • agree with their employer to be compensated for overtime with paid time off in lieu of overtime pay
  • refuse overtime work, in limited circumstances, to deal with family responsibilities
  • request flexible work arrangements including changes to hours of work, work schedules or location of work

Employers must provide employees, subject to exceptions, with these new hours of work provisions:

  • 24-hours’ written notice of work schedules
  • 96-hours’ written notice of work schedules
  • 30-minute breaks every 5 consecutive hours of work
  • 8-hour rest periods between work periods or shifts

The Government is taking a phased approach for proposed regulations on exemptions and modifications to the new hours of work provisions:

  • Phase 1: The proposed regulations for the road transportation, postal and courier, marine, and grain sectors were published in Part I of the Canada Gazette on December 19, 2020 for a 60-day consultation period.
  • Phase 2: The proposed regulations for the rail transportation, telecommunications and broadcasting, and banking sectors are targeted for publication in Part I of the Canada Gazette in late spring 2021.

Employees are also entitled to:

  • unpaid breaks for medical reasons
  • unpaid breaks for breastfeeding or expressing breast milk

For more information:

Wages

Equal treatment (effective 2020 or later)

Employers:

  • may not pay an employee a lower rate of wages than another employee due to a difference in their employment status (casual, part-time, temporary and seasonal employees)
  • must inform all employees of employment and promotion opportunities, regardless of their employment status
  • may not retaliate against an employee requesting review of wages
  • may not reduce an employee’s rate of wages to comply with their obligations
  • must, on written request, review an employee’s rate of wages and provide a written response within 90 days

Employees:

  • may make a wage recovery complaint
  • have the right to reimbursement of reasonable work-related expenses

Temporary help agency employees are:

  • protected from unfair practices such as being charged a fee for being assigned work

Temporary help agencies may not:

  • pay their employees a lower rate of wages than an employee of the client performing substantially the same work
  • charge a fee:
    • to a person to become its employee
    • for assigning them to perform work for a client
    • for establishing an employment relationship with a client
  • retaliate against an employee requesting a review of wages

Clients of a temporary help agency may not:

  • reduce one of their employee’s rate of wages in order for the agency to comply with these obligations

Recovering unpaid wages (effective April 1, 2019)

Employees now benefit from improved processes to recover unpaid wages:

  • longer period may be covered by a payment order
  • administrative fees added to payment orders given to employers
  • orders to recover amounts from debtors of directors of a corporation
  • additional powers related to complaint investigations

Termination (effective 2020 or later)

Amendments will support employee financial security and transition when their job is terminated.
Employers must:

  • for group terminations, provide 16 weeks of notice or pay in lieu, or a combination of notice and pay in lieu
  • for termination of fewer than 50 employees, provide from 2 weeks of notice or pay in lieu (for employees who have at least 3 months of continuous employment) to 8 weeks of notice or pay in lieu (after 8 years of continuous employment)

Administration and enforcement of labour standards

Filing complaints (effective July 29, 2019)

  • There is a restriction on filing multiple complaints based on substantially the same facts
  • The conditions for disclosing a complainant’s name have been clarified

Rules now allow for the abandonment of complaints where a complainant fails to respond to written communications for a period of 30 days

Reprisal protections (effective July 29, 2019)

Employees are protected against reprisals by employers for exercising their rights under Part III of the Canada Labour Code

Misclassification of employees (effective January 1, 2021)

Employers are now prohibited from misclassifying employees in order to avoid their obligations under the Canada Labour Code. Any employer who misclassifies an employee is in contravention of the Code. They may be subject to enforcement action by the Labour Program, up to and including an administrative monetary penalty or prosecution.

Part IV (Administrative monetary penalties) of the Canada Labour Code and public naming of violators (effective January 1, 2021)

Under the new Part IV of the Code and the Administrative Monetary Penalties (Canada Labour Code) Regulations, employers who violate Part II (Occupational Health and Safety) and Part III (Labour Standards) of the Code may now receive an administrative monetary penalty of up to $250,000. Employers who receive a penalty may also be publicly named as violators.

Consult the news release for more information.

Information available to employees (effective 2021 or later)

The proposed Regs will prescribe information that must be included in a statement Employers must:

  • provide employees with information about their labour standards rights and entitlements
  • provide employees with a statement of their terms and conditions of employment

Internships (effective September 1, 2020)

In federally regulated workplaces, interns are now entitled to full labour standards protections, including the right to be paid at least the minimum wage. Student interns who are fulfilling the requirements of an educational program may be unpaid and are entitled to certain labour standards protections, such as:

  • standard hours of work
  • 30-minute breaks, and
  • general holidays

Consult Federal labour standards for interns and student interns and Federally regulated employer obligations towards interns and student interns for more information.

Age of work

Minimum age for work in hazardous occupations (effective 2020 or later)

The minimum age for work in hazardous occupations increases from 17 to 18 years of age.

Contract retendering and transfer

Length of service (effective September 1, 2019)

There is now continuity of employees’ length of service in cases of contract retendering or transfer from a provincially regulated employer.

Changes to help achieve wage fairness

In this section

All Canadians should be treated fairly and paid properly for the work they do.

Wage Earner Protection Program (effective 2021)

Since December 13, 2018, the maximum payment under the Wage Earner Protection Program Act increased from 4 weeks to 7 weeks of Employment Insurance maximum insurable earnings. This change applied retroactively to bankruptcies or receiverships that occurred on or after February 27, 2018.

Since July 29, 2019, appeals of Wage Earner Protection Program review decisions are now adjudicated by the Canada Industrial Relations Board.

The Government is also working on improving access to the program for employees whose employer is:

  • bankrupt in another country
  • engaged in a processof liquidating

The proposed changes to the Wage Earner Protection Program Regulations were published on November 28, 2020, in Part I of the Canada Gazette and are available for comment until January 15, 2021.

Pay equity (effective 2021)

Pay equity measures will direct employers to take proactive steps to ensure that they are providing equal pay for work of equal value. These measures will apply to federally regulated workplaces, including:

  • the federal public and private sectors
  • parliamentary workplaces, and
  • the Prime Minister’s and Ministers’ offices

The proposed Pay Equity Regulations have been pre-published in Part l of the Canada Gazette. They were open for comments until January 13, 2021.

Learn more: Government of Canada moves forward on pay equity to help address wage gaps in federally regulated workplaces (news release).

Pay transparency (effective January 1, 2021)

The Regulations amending the Employment Equity Regulationssupport the introduction of new pay transparency measures in federally regulated private-sector workplaces. These measures aim to address wage gaps experienced by:

  • women
  • Indigenous peoples
  • persons with disabilities
  • members of visible minorities

With the leadership of employers, we expect pay transparency to help reduce wage gaps, improve equality in the workplace and lead to better outcomes for employees.

These measures place Canada as the first country to make this level of wage gap information publicly available. The first release of aggregated wage gap information is expected in winter 2023 through an online application (in development).

Consult the news release for more information.

Changes to occupational health and safety

In this section

Legislative and regulatory changes have been made for occupational health and safety.

Protection equipment and other preventive measures (effective July 10, 2019)

Standards have changed on the use of protection equipment and other preventive measures of the Canada Occupational Health and Safety Regulations. Safety equipment and practices are now up to industry standards for federally regulated employees.

Read about the changes to protection equipment and other preventive measures.

Harassment and violence in the workplace (effective January 1, 2021)

The anti-harassment and violence in the workplace legislation (Bill C-65) and the Work Place Harassment and Violence Prevention Regulations strengthen the health and safety of workers in federally regulated workplaces by putting in place a regime that takes all forms of harassment and violence into consideration. They apply to the federally regulated private sector, federal public service and Parliament.

Consult Requirements for employers to prevent harassment and violence in federally regulated workplaces and the news release for more information.

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What We Heard: Modernizing Labour Standards - Transcript

We engaged with thousands of Canadians to ask you one big question.

(Text appears on screen: "What should modern federal labour standards look like?")

What should modern federal labour standards look like?

And here's what you had to say:

You said that the world is changing and so is the workplace.

You asked for improved access to leaves and annual vacation, additional support for better work-life balance, better protection for employees in non-standard employment, updated rules for when employment is terminated, and good wages and benefits.

Thank you for your feedback, Canada!

(Text appears on screen: "Thank you".)

We heard what you had to say, and we will continue to work with you to improve workplace conditions for a better future for Canadian workers.

(Various photos of federally regulated employees and the title "Modernizing Labour Standards" appear on screen.)

(Hashtag appears on screen: "#LabourStandards".)

Read the full report and join the conversation!

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