Bill C-59, An Act to implement certain provisions of the
budget tabled in Parliament on April 21, 2015 and other
measures (the "Bill"), proposes several key changes
to the provisions of the Canada Labour Code, 1985
(the "Code") as part of the federal government's 2015
Economic Action Plan. If passed, the proposed changes under the
Bill and the 2015 Economic Action Plan will have a significant
impact on federally-regulated employers, specifically with respect
to the accommodation of employees seeking leaves of absence to care
for family members and the imposition of measures to further
address workplace health and safety.
Summary of Select Key Considerations
Compassionate care leave extension
Under the proposed amendments contained in the Bill, employees
who obtain a medical certificate evidencing a family member's
illness shall be entitled to an unpaid, job-protected leave of
absence of up to 28 weeks to care for a family member. This is a
significant increase from the Code's current limit of eight
If passed, the Bill will amend Parts II and III of the Code to
"ensure that interns under federal jurisdiction receive
occupational health and safety protections and are subject to basic
safety standards." An exception is carved out for internships
that are completed per the requirements of a post-secondary
institution or vocational school. Under the proposed changes, in
order to exempt an intern from the occupational health and safety
provisions of the Code: (i) the hours worked must be limited; (ii)
the benefits gained must accrue mainly to the intern; (iii) the
employer must supervise the intern; (iv) the intern must not
replace an employee; and (v) the intern must be aware that they
will not be remunerated.
Consolidation of the Code with Occupational Health and
The 2015 Economic Action Plan outlines the government's
intention to consolidate the current legislation for addressing
workplace violence and sexual harassment, namely Part II of the
Code, Part XX of the Canada Occupational Health and Safety
Regulations and Part III of the Code. The amendments will
"address violence and sexual harassment in federally regulated
private-sector workplaces to ensure that employees are treated
fairly and protected from harm in the workplace".
Increased Funding for Health and Safety Officers
The federal government plans to provide $4.8 million over five
years to increase compliance with the health and safety provisions
of the Code, particularly in remote areas and high-risk sectors.
The 2015 Economic Action Plan proposes to achieve this by
increasing the number of health and safety officers responsible for
ensuring compliance and enforcement of occupational health and
safety provisions under the Code from 90 to 100 officers
Bill C-59 had its first reading on May 7, 2015 and additional
readings are required before the implications of this legislation
become a reality. It is expected that there will be changes
forthcoming as various stakeholders in the labour and employment
arena work with the federal government to develop a framework that
is both practical and effective.
Nevertheless, federally-regulated employers may want to start
thinking about what types of practical and administrative changes
would be needed in order to comply with the requirements under the
Bill, if passed. This may involve a preliminary review of company
internship programs, occupational health and safety policies, and
policies and procedures related to employee leaves.
The Labour and Employment Group will continue to monitor these
developments and provide updates as they become available.
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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Unfortunately, reasonable accommodation for employees in the workplace continues to be the source of significant litigation and even today we continue to see outrageous examples of employers behaving badly.
We are now beginning to see reported cases involving charges and subsequent fines laid against employers for failing to provide information, instruction and supervision to protect a worker from workplace violence.
On October 13, 2016, the Supreme Court of Canada denied leave to appeal an Ontario Court of Appeal decision which ordered an employer to pay a former employee 37 months of salary and benefits following termination.
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