Canada: "SEA Change": Key Highlights Of The Saskatchewan Employment Act Regulations

On April 29, the Government of Saskatchewan proclaimed The Saskatchewan Employment Act (the "Act") and its Regulations into force. This article builds on Jeff Grubb and Kara Bashutski's March 27 communiqué, " Reinventing the Wheel: Changes to the Standard '40 Hour' Work Week and Expanded Decertification Time". While the Act has been available for some time, the Regulations, which provide a better understanding on how the new labour and employment laws will operate, were only released very recently. This communiqué is intended to introduce some of the more noteworthy changes in the Regulations.

Modified work arrangements

Employers and employees may agree to a modified work week where hours are averaged for a certain period before overtime pay is required. These agreements must be made in writing and can last a maximum of 2 years.

The agreement can either be weekly in 40-hour increments (for example, 40 hours over one week; 80 hours over two weeks; 120 hours over three weeks; or 160 hours over four weeks), or daily (the maximum daily hours that an employee can work without overtime pay is 12 hours).

Banked overtime

Employers and employees may agree to a system of "banked overtime" for the employee. All banked hours are to be banked at 1.5 times the number of overtime hours worked. Any hours taken from the bank must be taken at a time agreed upon by the employer and employee during the employee's regularly scheduled work hours.

Any banked hours not used by the employee must be paid out in accordance with regular overtime provisions.

New provisions: retail workers and interns

There are new provisions in the Regulations which deal with how employers schedule retail workers. Employers in the retail trade (a defined term in the Regulations) with more than 10 employees shall grant employees who usually work 20 hours or more in a week two consecutive days of rest in a week, one of which is a Saturday or Sunday whenever possible. Previously, retailers with similar employees were required to give a rest period of two consecutive days in a week, one of which was to be Sunday whenever possible. This provision does not apply to workplaces where a modified work arrangement or overtime authorization is in effect.

There are also new provisions in the Regulations which deal with how employment standards apply to interns. Interns are now deemed to be employees for the purposes of employment standards legislation in Saskatchewan, and are entitled to the same protections (e.g. minimum wage, overtime pay, scheduling, etc.) as any other employee. The exception to the new provisions for interns is "student learners", who are students from recognized institutions receiving skills training as part of the requirement to receive a designation from their educational institution.

New exempted group from minimum wage standards: athletes

Athletes are now exempted from minimum wage standards while they are engaged in activities related to their athletic endeavours.

Minimum wage rates

The minimum wage rate can be adjusted by the Lieutenant Governor in Council on or before June 30 each year. If adjusted, it will be determined using a formula as prescribed in the Regulations which takes into account changes to the consumer price index and the annual hourly wage. Any changes to the minimum wage take effect on the first pay period after June 30. If the minimum wage rate is not adjusted, the rate remains the same as it was the previous year. The Regulations also prescribe a "minimum wage floor", as the minimum wage cannot fall below $10 per hour.

"Report for duty" pay

Employees required to report for duty, other than for overtime, are entitled to be paid three times their hourly wage. This is a change from the previous standards, where employees were only required to be paid three times the minimum wage upon reporting for duty.

Under the previous legislation, certain groups of people (such as high school students) were exempted from "report for duty" pay requirements. With the new Regulations, high school students (among others) must be paid for at least one hour of wages if they report for duty.

Labour relations changes

Perhaps the two biggest changes from the previous labour relations regime are: (1) the Labour Relations Board now has the ability to amend its own Regulations; and (2) appeals of adjudicated decisions are now to be heard by the Labour Relations Board (not the Court of Queen's Bench, as previously), with subsequent appeals to be heard at the Court of Appeal.

Forms and processes have been significantly updated to reflect modern conveniences like electronic communications. Many of these changes reflect modernization found more broadly in The Saskatchewan Employment Act. For example, applications to the Labour Relations Board can now be filed by email (with a hard copy to follow), and timeframes have been increased – from a deadline of 10 calendar days to 10 business days. Many forms have also been updated to provide electronic contact information for parties and their legal counsel.

The new Regulations also provide a summary dismissal application process for matters before the Labour Relations Board.  Similar to a summary dismissal application in court, the applicant must provide evidence to demonstrate that the matter can be determined without proceeding to a full hearing.

Summary

The Saskatchewan Employment Act Regulations reflect a modernization of the laws and institutions related to labour and employment law in Saskatchewan. There have been significant changes, and the Regulations give a greater understanding of how some of the provisions in the Act will operate. We will monitor the practical effects of these changes moving forward.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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