Canada: The Saskatchewan Employment Act: The Act Proclaimed

Last Updated: November 10 2014
Article by David M.A Stack and Robert J. Affleck

The Saskatchewan Employment Act was proclaimed into law today (Tuesday, April 29th, 2014). The legislation subsumes a number of statutes, including The Labour Standards Act, The Trade Union Act, and The Occupational Health and Safety Act. The legislation provides much needed modernization and balance in the areas of labour standards and labour relations. The regulations that the government has established to accompany the new legislation also build on the reform.

The proclamation of the Act ushers in a number of changes, but here are a few key points:

Employment Standards:

Leave Provisions

  • Lowered qualification threshold for maternity, parental and adoption leave from 20 weeks to 13 weeks.
  • Notice (4 weeks) required for commencing and returning from leave.
  • Two new leaves – organ donation (max 26 weeks) and leave to attend citizenship ceremonies (1 day).

Overtime

  • Time banking will be permissible where agreed between the employer and employee at a rate of 1.5 times the number of hours worked.
  • Banked time must be used within 12 months of being banked with both employers and employees agreeing to use of time.

Averaging

  • Employers and employees may agree to averaging models which reflect the following:
    • 40 hours over 1 week
    • 80 hours over 2 weeks
    • 120 hours over 3 weeks
    • 160 hours over 4 weeks
  • Maximum of 12 hours per day.
  • Majority consent by affected employees is required and lasts a maximum of 2 years (but may be renewed).
  • Modified work arrangements do not apply to part-time employees.

Compliance Audits

  • Compliance audits - provision for the government to conduct compliance audits, ie, audits of employers' compliance with labour standards in the absence of a complaint.
  • A fee of 10% of assessed owing wages may be applied as a result of an audit.

Appeals

  • Effort to consolidate the adjudication processes under the employment standards and OHS parts.Appeals of employment standards and occupational health and safety decisions will be heard by adjudicators assigned by the Labour Relations Board (LRB)Adjudicators are to take into account mitigation.

Fines

  • Fines increasing 5 times to maximum of $50,000.

Minimum Wage

  • Minimum Wage Board will be disestablished.
  • Indexation of the minimum wage, subject to Cabinet approval.

Minimum Callout Pay

  • Minimum Callout pay has increased to 3 times the employee's hourly wage (rather than 3 times minimum wage).
  • Provide minimum 1 hour's pay for school students, noonhour supervisors and school bus drivers.
  • Now includes janitors, caretakers, and building cleaners.

Retail Sector

  • Retail employees where there are more than 10 employees who work 20 or more hours a week are entitled to two consecutive days of rest – when possible one of those days is to be a Saturday or Sunday.

Exemptions

  • Interns will be recognized as employees, but "student learners" in an educational program that requires a work placement or practicum to complete their program are not "employees".

Occupational Health and Safety:

Minutes of Occupational Health Committee are no longer required to be submitted to the Ministry, but must be maintained for inspection purposes.

Prime Contractors

  • Designation of a prime contractor on worksites with 10 or more self-employed persons or workers will be required, but only in the industries of Construction, Forestry, and Oil and gas.

Penalties

  • Maximum penalties for individuals ($500,000) and corporations ($1.5 million) increase.

Labour Relations:

Regulations and Forms

The Labour Relations Board will be releasing new regulations and forms and the existing regulations and forms will be repealed.

Exempt Staff

  • The definition of "employee" has been significantly changed to exclude from a bargaining unit employees whose duties include activities of a confidential nature in matters relating to any of the following:

(I) labour relations;

(II) business strategic planning;

(III) policy advice;

(IV) budget implementation or planning.

These duties need to have a direct impact on the bargaining unit.

  • Definition of "supervisory employee" which would prevent supervisors from belonging to the same bargaining unit as those they supervise, unless the employer and union to agree to maintain supervisors in the same union as those employees they supervise (2 year transition period).

Negotiations

  • The time period for providing a notice to commence bargaining is now "not less than 60 days nor more than 120 days before the expiry date of the collective agreement" .
  • New "Notice of Dispute" document is established. Notice must be given the Minister when an impasse has been reached and mandatory conciliation procedures must be followed before a strike or lock out occurs.
  • Minister will have a number of options to assist the parties to reaching a resolution including mediation, conciliation and arbitration.
  • Even if these conciliatory processes fail to result in an agreement, a 14-day cooling off period must be observed before strike or lockout can occur (and 48-hour strike notice must be provided).
  • Minister may to establish an industrial inquiry commission to consider larger industry disputes.

Last Offer Vote

  • A last offer vote can be requested by employer or employees anytime after notice to bargain (no longer tied to strike, but only one vote a dispute).
  • Employees' application to vote on employer's last offer must be accompanied by evidence of support from 45% of employees.
  • All employees of the bargaining unit eligible to vote.
  • Minister has authority to require a vote.

Successorship

  • The special provision for cafeteria, janitorial or security services in a government-owned or university building will be removed.

Decertification

  • The Act now allows for decertification where the union has been inactive in representing members for a period of 3 or more years.
  • Applications to decertify anytime after the first 24 months of a certification order and 12 months after an unsuccessful decert application, thereafter.

First Collective Agreement

  • When imposing a first collective agreement, the LRB or single arbitrator will consider economic conditions and terms and conditions of employment in similar occupations.
  • Mandatory length of 2 years.

Union Accountability

  • Audited financial statements to members. It is interesting to note that the original Trade Union Acts which came about in the United Kingdom and Canada in the early 1870s contained provisions that contemplated financial accounting to the membership of the union.
  • Ratification votes within 14 days of negotiating collective agreement.
  • Removal of provision authorizing union to fine members for crossing picket line.

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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