Canada: Employment Law Tracker - August 2019

Modernisation of the Canada Labour Code and Changes Effective 1 September 2019

Bill C-86 introduced a number of amendments to the Canada Labour Code, following consultation with Canadian workers in 2018 and publication of "What We Heard:  Modernising Federal Labour Standards". The bill received royal assent on 13 December 2018.

Changes to the Canada Labour Code discussed in this article will come into effect on 1 September 2019. There are also amendments to the Canada Labour Standards Regulations coming into effect on 1 September 2019, which align with these amendments. Federally-regulated employers can expect further changes to regulations following these amendments and further consultations with stakeholders.

Notably, other parts of Bill C-86 have already come into effect, including changes to parental leave, maternity leave, and critical illness leaves.

Notice of Work Schedule

Employers must provide employees with their work schedules, in writing, at least 96 hours before the start of the first work period, subject to prescribed exceptions. Employees have the right to refuse to work where this rule is not followed, subject to prescribed exceptions. Collective agreements can override notice requirements.

Rest Periods and Breaks

Employees are entitled to a rest period of at least 8 consecutive hours between shifts, subject to prescribed exceptions. Employees are entitled to an unpaid break of at least 30 minutes for every period of 5 consecutive hours of work, subject to prescribed exceptions. Employees are also entitled to unpaid breaks for medical reasons, including for the purpose of nursing.

Leaves of Absence 

The amendments eliminate minimum length of service requirements for parental leave, maternity leave, sick leaves, and leaves related to death or disappearance. Several new leaves are introduced and will be in force as of 1 September 2019:

Medical Leave/Sick Leave: "Medical Leave" is now referred to under the Canada Labour Code as "Sick Leave." Eligible employees are entitled to a medical leave of up to 17 weeks, which can be taken on account of personal illness or injury, organ donation or medical appointments during working hours. Where an employee's period of leave will exceed 3 days, the employer can require a certificate from a health care practitioner. Categories of who may provide certificates have also changed in the recent amendments.

Personal Leave: Employees are entitled to 5 days of personal leave, the first 3 days of which are paid if the employee has completed 3 months of continuous service. Personal leave may be taken for a variety of reasons, including treating a personal illness or injury, meeting responsibilities related to the health or care of prescribed family members, meeting responsibilities related to the education of prescribed family, addressing any urgent matter concerning the employee or prescribed family members, attending their own citizenship ceremony, or any other reason established through regulation.

Leave for Victims of Family Violence: An employee who is the victim of family violence, or who is the parent of a child who is the victim of family violence, will be able to avail themselves of up to 10 days of leave per calendar year, for prescribed purposes. Up to five 5 days of this leave period must be provided to eligible employees on a paid.

2 Additional Days of Bereavement Leave: Bereavement leave entitlements have been expanded to include 2 unpaid days to the existing 3 paid days of leave.  An employee may take up to 5 days of bereavement leave in the event of a death of a prescribed family member during the period that begins on the day of the family member's death to 6 weeks after the last day on which any funeral, burial or memorial service occurs.

Court or Jury Duty Leave: Employees are entitled to an unpaid leave of absence to attend court to appear as a witness, act as a juror or participate in the jury selection process.

Leave for Traditional Aboriginal Practices: Aboriginal employees who have completed 3 months of continuous service will be eligible for an unpaid leave of absence of up to 5 days to engage in traditional Aboriginal practices, such as hunting, fishing, harvesting, or other practices as may be prescribed by regulation.

Vacation Pay

Vacation pay and time entitlements are increased depending on an employee's length of service as detailed below:

After 1 year of employment:  2 weeks' vacation (4% vacation pay).

After 5 years of employment: 3 weeks' vacation (6% vacation pay).

After 10 years of employment: 4 weeks' vacation (8% vacation pay).

For further information on the changes effective 1 September 2019, see " Federally Regulated Employers: Are You Ready for the Onslaught of Legislative Change That Will Take Effect September 1?" by Lucas Mapplebeck at Filion Wakely Thorup Angeletti LLP.

Internationally, we are the single Canadian member of L&E GLOBAL, an alliance of over 1500 labour and employment lawyers in more than 120 offices around the world. As part of L&E GLOBAL, Filion offers access to a single legal powerhouse for clients requiring complex cross-border labour and employment services throughout the world.

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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