Canada: The International Comparative Legal Guide to: Employment & Labour 2016 - Canada

1 Terms and Conditions of Employment

1.1 What are the main sources of employment law?

Several sources of employment law exist in Canada; firstly, there are a host of federal and provincial statutes specifically designed to deal with employment issues including employment standards, workers' compensation and workplace discrimination. There is also the common law in each province (the Civil Code in the province of Québec), as well as jurisprudence by Canadian courts. In Québec, various texts by legal scholars, called "doctrine", can also inspire employment law and finally, the contract of employment between the parties can be a source of law between them.

1.2 What types of worker are protected by employment

law? How are different types of worker distinguished?

Only workers who are considered "employees" are protected by employment law. Workers are distinguished on the basis of whether they are employees or independent contractors. Most employment laws will have specific definitions of who constitutes an employee within the meaning of that law. In general, an employee will be a person who works for remuneration according to the instructions and under the supervision or control of another person. Many protective measures benefit employees including, for example, the right not to be dismissed without just and sufficient cause if an employee has more than two years of continuous service (Québec), protection against reprisals for employees who are pregnant, or who are required to be absent for the purposes of child or family care, etc. All employees are protected against the right to be dismissed with a prior reasonable notice if there is no cause for dismissal. Employees can also be distinguished on the basis of whether they are ordinary employees or management personnel. Employees are distinguished from managers on a number of factors, including hours of work, mode of remuneration and whether they have the ability to hire and dismiss other workers in the course of exercising their work. The distinction is relevant as certain legal treatments may differ for employees and managers, as well as for senior managers.

1.3 Do contracts of employment have to be in writing? If not, do employees have to be provided with specific information in writing?

No. The employment contract is not subject to any particular formality in Canada. Even a verbal agreement can constitute an employment contract, assuming that it can be proven. In practice, the great majority of employment contracts in Canada are not made in writing. Nor is there any requirement that employees be provided with any specific information in writing at the time of hiring. As such, it is common for employees to have either a simple verbal agreement or an informal letter of hire when they are employed. More senior executives may have a more formal written agreement which will contain detailed terms and conditions of employment.

1.4 Are any terms implied into contracts of employment?

Yes. Regardless of what form the employment contract takes, all employment relationships implicitly include the employer's obligation to provide work, to pay for the work and to provide a safe working environment for its employees. As for the employee, every contract of employment implies that the employee will carry out the work and be loyal to his employer, not only during the term of employment but also for a reasonable period of time after termination of employment.

1.5 Are any minimum employment terms and conditions set down by law that employers have to observe?

Yes. Minimum terms and conditions of employment are contained in the various employment standards and legislation of each Canadian province and in the Canada Labour Code for federally regulated businesses. Thus, for example, there are minimum standards established for wages, vacation pay, overtime pay, statutory holidays, hours of work, leaves of absence, and termination of employment.

1.6 To what extent are terms and conditions of employment agreed through collective bargaining? Does bargaining usually take place at company or industry level?

The freedom to associate and to bargain collectively is a fundamental freedom under Canadian law. Approximately 30 per cent of the workforce, including public sector employees, have their terms and conditions of employment agreed through collective bargaining. This rate rises to close to 40 per cent in Québec and British Columbia. Collective bargaining can take place either at company level or, in certain circumstances (e.g., the construction industry), at industry level.

2 Employee Representation and Industrial Relations

2.1 What are the rules relating to trade union recognition?

In all jurisdictions, employees have the right and freedom to join or form a union of their choice. In order to be recognised or certified as the bargaining agent for a group of employees, a union must secure the support of a majority of the workers who form the bargaining unit. A "majority" is defined as 50 per cent of the workers plus one. Typically, employees will be approached to sign union membership cards; these cards will be compiled. Once a sufficient number of cards have been obtained, a petition will be filed before the appropriate labour board who will certify the union as bargaining agent for the group of employees targeted. In certain circumstances, if the union obtains support of less than 50 per cent plus one but more than 35 per cent (or 40 per cent in certain provinces), a vote can be ordered by the labour board to determine whether the union will be recognised. If the employer does not agree with the bargaining unit as defined by the union, there is a procedure for contestation, and a hearing before the labour board will be held prior to certifying the union until such time as the bargaining unit has been properly defined.

2.2 What rights do trade unions have?

Canadians believe that it is in the public interest to resolve industrial disputes quickly and efficiently. The primary rights of a trade union are firstly to bargain collectively with an employer. Certification gives a union the exclusive authority to bargain collectively with an employer on behalf of all employees in the bargaining unit. Both parties have the legal duty to bargain in good faith. In the event that the parties are unable to reach an agreement, the employees, through their union, have the right to strike, and employers have the right to lock out employees. In Québec, there exists legislation which expressly prohibits the use of replacement workers during a strike or lockout. A union also has the right to have disputes or grievances arising during the life of a collective agreement decided by arbitration. All disputes between a union and an employer concerning the interpretation, application, administration or alleged violation of a collective agreement must be settled by arbitration. Also, the union can, at any time during the collective bargaining process, request the intervention of a Government-appointed conciliator to facilitate the bargaining process. In the case of a first collective agreement, either party can also ask for binding arbitration if the collective bargaining or conciliation process is unsuccessful.

2.3 Are there any rules governing a trade union's right to take industrial action?

Yes. A union's right to take industrial actions such as a strike or picketing is regulated by law; strikes can be conducted lawfully once majority support by the employees in the bargaining unit has been secured. Picketing actions (including secondary picketing) are permitted as a form of free expression but must be conducted in such a way as not to interfere with the flow of business on the employer's premises.

2.4 Are employers required to set up works councils? If so, what are the main rights and responsibilities of such bodies? How are works council representatives chosen/appointed?

No. There are no requirements to set up works councils in Canada. Unions are the form through which employee representation occurs.

2.5 In what circumstances will a works council have codetermination rights, so that an employer is unable to proceed until it has obtained works council agreement to proposals?

This is not applicable. (See question 2.4, above.)

2.6 How do the rights of trade unions and works councils interact?

This is not applicable. (See question 2.4, above.)

2.7 Are employees entitled to representation at board level?

No, they are not.

To continue reading this quide, please click here

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.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:
  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.
  • Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.
    If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here
    If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here

    Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

    Use of

    You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


    Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

    The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


    Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

    • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
    • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
    • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

    Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

    Information Collection and Use

    We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

    We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

    Mondaq News Alerts

    In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


    A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

    Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

    Log Files

    We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


    This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

    Surveys & Contests

    From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


    If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


    From time to time Mondaq may send you emails promoting Mondaq services including new services. You may opt out of receiving such emails by clicking below.

    *** If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here .


    This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

    Correcting/Updating Personal Information

    If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

    Notification of Changes

    If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

    How to contact Mondaq

    You can contact us with comments or queries at

    If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.

    By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions