Canada: Is The Sun Setting On The Ranch? Canadian Workplace Legislation And The Impact On Farming Operations

INTRODUCTION

Canadian farmers, ranchers and dairy producers have always valued being able to operate their businesses independently and relatively free of regulations. So, when the Government of Alberta recently enacted Bill 6 – Enhanced Protection for Farm and Ranch Workers Act (the "Act"), it led to extensive criticism and widespread protests on the steps of the provincial legislature by farmers and ranchers. At issue was the extent of intrusion on their way of life, including their ability to involve their children in their operations. The Act and accompanying regulations will result in the elimination of many long-standing exemptions granted to Alberta's farms and ranches from workplace standards and obligations. The impending changes resulting from the controversial Act, while new to Alberta, are not new to farmers and ranchers in other Canadian provinces.

THE ALBERTA ACT

In Canada, there are four main legislative regimes that impact the standards of employment and workplace safety. Legislation related to employment standards establishes the minimum standards of employment, including hours of work, overtime, holidays, vacation and minimum wage. Labor relations legislation gives workers the right to unionize, participate in collective bargaining, and to strike under certain conditions. Workers' compensation legislation provides for a type of no-fault disability insurance, where employers are responsible for paying a premium, so employees who are injured at work receive compensation for lost income, healthcare and other related costs. Occupational health and safety legislation establishes minimum workplace safety standards and obligations to minimize the occurrence of workplace accidents.

Prior to the Act, much of Alberta's legislation governing employment standards, labor relations, workers' compensation and occupational health and safety did not apply to farm and ranch workers. In late 2015, Alberta enacted the Act to "make farm work safer and bring Alberta in line with the protections that farm and ranch workers in other Canadian provinces enjoy". As a result of the Act, Alberta's farms and ranches will face a significant change in landscape. As of January 1, 2016, workers' compensation coverage became mandatory for paid farm workers, excluding family members ("family member" is defined to include spouses, adult interdependent partners, children, parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews and first cousins). At the same time, basic standards under occupational health and safety came into effect for paid workers while onsite. Meanwhile, changes to the employment standards and labor relations legislations are still being developed.

Under the changes to occupational health and safety legislation, farm and ranch workers can refuse unsafe work, and occupational health and safety officials can go on farms to investigate serious injuries and fatalities. Farming and ranching operations must familiarize themselves and ensure compliance with the extensive new obligations, the failure of which may result in stop-work orders, significant fines, and/or imprisonment. The Act excludes the application of occupational health and safety obligations from owners of a farm or ranch operation, family members of the owners, and friends and neighbors who volunteer their time on the farm or ranch. Detailed occupational health and safety standards specific to farms and ranches will come into effect over the next eighteen months.

Under the changes to workers' compensation legislation, workers' compensation coverage has become mandatory for all farm and ranch workers in Alberta, excluding family members and friends and neighbors who volunteer their time.

While the specific changes stemming from the Act are still being rolled out, interested parties have expressed extensive concern over the potential effects of the Act. For instance, the Act struck out, in its entirety, the exclusion of farm and ranch workers from the requirements under employment standards legislation. This raises the concern that employment standards requirements will apply to farm workers indiscriminately, thus failing to take into account the sporadic nature of farming operations. Specifically, employment standards requirements relating to hours of work, overtime and mandatory breaks would interfere with the flexibility that is required to work longer days during seeding, harvest and calving seasons.

The current wording of the Act with regards to labor relations legislation suggests that farm and ranch workers will have the unfettered right to unionize, participate in collective bargaining, and potentially strike. Farm owners generally fear that such rights would significantly interfere with seasonal operations due to the time- and weather-sensitive nature of farming.

WHAT ARE OTHER CANADIAN PROVINCES DOING?

01 | Employment standards

In British Columbia, most sections of the employment standards legislation and regulations apply to farm workers, with certain exceptions including hours of work, overtime and statutory holidays. While farm workers are not entitled to overtime pay, they must not work excessive hours detrimental to their health or safety.

In Saskatchewan, the minimum employment standards, such as hours of work, overtime, statutory holidays, vacations, required periods of rest and minimum wage do not apply to workers whose primary duties consist of actively engaging in farming, ranching or market gardening activities. However, those standards do apply to workers in egg hatcheries, greenhouses, nurseries, bush clearing operations and commercial hog operations. Further, family farms are exempt from minimum employment standards.

In Manitoba, some sections of the employment standards legislation apply to agricultural workers, while others do not. While agricultural workers are subject to employment standards requirements relating to minimum wage, termination notice, vacations, weekly day of rest, work breaks and restrictions on deductions from pay, they are not subject to requirements with regards to hours of work, overtime and general holidays. The employment standards legislation also differentiates between family members who work on the farm, and paid non-family workers, with family members exempt from almost all employment standards requirements.

In Ontario, there are different categories of agricultural workers covered by the employment standards legislation, each with their own set of exemptions or special rules. For instance, the "farm employee" category applies to employees whose employment is directly related to the primary production of eggs, milk, grain, seeds, fruit, vegetables, etc. Farm employees are exempt from provisions in the employment standards legislation relating to minimum wage, hours of work, daily rest periods, time off between shifts, weekly/bi-weekly rest periods, overtime, public holidays and vacation with pay. However, they are covered by employment standards protections relating to regular payment of wages, leaves of absence, termination notice and/or termination pay, and severance pay.

Another category is "harvesters of fruit, vegetables or tobacco". This category includes workers employed on a farm to harvest, or bring in, crops of fruit, vegetables or tobacco for marketing or storage. Workers under this category are exempt from some minimum requirements such as hours of work and overtime, but are subject to special rules with regards to public holidays, vacation with pay, and minimum wage. Harvesters are entitled to minimum wage, vacation pay and public holidays in some cases, while farm employees are not.

02 | Labour relations

Currently, eight provinces in Canada allow farm workers to unionize and participate in collective bargaining. In Manitoba, every employee has the right to be a member of a union, and to participate in the activities of a union. In Saskatchewan, employees have the right to organize in and to form, join or assist unions, and to engage in collective bargaining through a union of their own choosing. In British Columbia, every employee is free to be a member of a trade union and to participate in its lawful activities. No exemptions are allowed for farm workers in the labour relations legislations of those provinces.

In Ontario, the Agricultural Employees Protection Act allows agricultural workers to form associations but not unions. The Supreme Court of Canada, in a 2011 decision, upheld this legislation. As a result, agricultural workers in Ontario have the right to make representations to their employers through an employee's association respecting the terms and conditions of employment, but cannot force their employers to negotiate collective agreements.

03 | Occupational health and safety

In British Columbia, the occupational health and safety regulations require every workplace that employs workers, including farms, to have a mandatory health and safety program. This program must include the employer's aims and responsibilities with respect to occupational health and safety, regular inspection schedules, written directions for employees, maintenance of statistics and records, and a regular review of occupational health and safety standards and their implementation. Only employers with twenty employees or more in a workplace that has a moderate to high risk of injury must develop and maintain an occupational health and safety program. Hence, smaller farming operations are subject to less onerous occupational health and safety obligations.

In Saskatchewan, the occupational health and safety legislation applies to all workplaces, including farms. Farm workers are given the same basic health and safety rights, including the right to know about the hazards of their jobs and how to deal with those hazards, the right to participate in health and safety education and training in the workplace, and the right to refuse work that they believe to be unusually dangerous.

Saskatchewan's occupational health and safety legislation places responsibilities and obligations on everyone who works in a workplace, including employers, workers, selfemployed individuals, contractors and suppliers. The level of responsibility for each of those groups is based on the extent of their authority and control over the workplace. For instance, the employer has the most control over the workplace, and thus has the greatest responsibility to ensure that occupational health and safety standards are met.

In Manitoba, agricultural operations have been covered under the occupational health and safety legislation since 2009. Every employer must ensure the safety, health and welfare of all their workers. The legislation provides directions on how farm employers should protect their farmworkers, as well as how workers are required to protect themselves and others.

In Ontario, agricultural operations have been covered under the occupational health and safety legislation since 2006. The occupational health and safety legislation applies to all farming operations that have one or more paid workers – i.e. any person who provides labour on a farm in exchange for a wage, regardless of the person's relationship to the farm. Unpaid workers and selfemployed persons without any workers are exempt. Paid workers have the right to receive information on workplace hazards and toxic substances, receive instructions and supervision for farm equipment or hazardous locations, participate in identifying and resolving workplace health and safety concerns, and refuse or stop work that they believe is dangerous.

Ontario's occupational health and safety legislation creates shared responsibility between employers and workers in creating and maintaining a safe workplace. For most cases in agriculture, the workplace is considered to be the farm property excluding any personal residence. Where an employer has six or more regularly employed workers, it must prepare and post a written and signed health and safety policy, and must develop and maintain a program to implement the policy.

04 | Workers' compensation

In British Columbia, the workers' compensation legislation applies to all employers and workers engaged in paid work. All commercial farming operations are covered under the workers' compensation regime, regardless of size. Certain workers may be exempted based on the duration of employment and whether employment takes place at a private residence. Employers who employ individuals for regular ongoing services around their homes for less than eight hours a week are exempt, but can purchase voluntary coverage. Employers who employ individuals for specific one-time projects around their homes for less than twenty-four total hours a week are exempt, but can also purchase voluntary coverage. Unpaid workers such as family members assisting with chores or seasonal activities are not included under the legislation.

In Saskatchewan, the workers' compensation legislation contains exemptions for certain areas within the agricultural industry, such as dairy farming, feedlot or livestock yard operation, fur farms, grazing cooperatives, piggery farms and poultry farms.

In Manitoba, the workers' compensation regime applies to all employers and workers in all industries, but allows for exemptions for family members engaged in farming activities on a family farm. Family members include spouses, children, parents, siblings, and any other person whom the farmer considers to be "like a close relative', whether or not related by blood, adoption, marriage or a common law relationship. This exemption is very liberal, as it exempts nearly any close friend, hence allowing family members and neighbors to work together on family farms without the mandatory requirement to obtain workers' compensation coverage. Family farms may apply for voluntary coverage.

In Ontario, agricultural employers are required to provide workers' compensation insurance coverage to their employees. An employee is anyone who provides labor on the farm in exchange for a wage. This includes all relatives and neighbors who receive a wage. Family members and neighbors who volunteer on the family farm are exempt.

As shown, the legislative regimes governing the standards of employment and workplace safety in the agricultural industry varies significantly from province to province in Canada. Although there appears to be no consistent minimum standard that is applicable across the provinces, agricultural workers are subject to certain exemptions from employment standards requirements in all the provinces. However, it remains to be seen, what the full impact of the legislation will be in each region.


About Norton Rose Fulbright Canada LLP

Norton Rose Fulbright is a global law firm. We provide the world's preeminent corporations and financial institutions with a full business law service. We have 3800 lawyers and other legal staff based in more than 50 cities across Europe, the United States, Canada, Latin America, Asia, Australia, Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia.

Recognized for our industry focus, we are strong across all the key industry sectors: financial institutions; energy; infrastructure, mining and commodities; transport; technology and innovation; and life sciences and healthcare.

Wherever we are, we operate in accordance with our global business principles of quality, unity and integrity. We aim to provide the highest possible standard of legal service in each of our offices and to maintain that level of quality at every point of contact.

For more information about Norton Rose Fulbright, see nortonrosefulbright.com/legal-notices.

Law around the world
nortonrosefulbright.com

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 Mondaq.com.

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

Authors
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Norton Rose Fulbright Canada LLP
 
In association with
Related Topics
 
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Norton Rose Fulbright Canada LLP
Related Articles
 
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
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
Password
Confirm Password
Position
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Accounting
 Anti-trust
 Commercial
 Compliance
 Consumer
 Criminal
 Employment
 Energy
 Environment
 Family
 Finance
 Government
 Healthcare
 Immigration
 Insolvency
 Insurance
 International
 IP
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Litigation
 Media & IT
 Privacy
 Real Estate
 Strategy
 Tax
 Technology
 Transport
 Wealth Mgt
Regions
Africa
Asia
Asia Pacific
Australasia
Canada
Caribbean
Europe
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
U.K.
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

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 or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.

Disclaimer

The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq 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 of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.

General

Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

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