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Minimum Wages

The issue of minimum wages is sometimes a source of confusion, particularly when commissions, incentives or bonus schemes are factored in.


The simple definition of wages includes all monies, whether salary, commission or otherwise, paid to an employee in exchange for work. However, the definition of wages in the Employment Standards Act (ESA) also includes incentives or bonuses paid to an employee if they relate to hours of work, production or efficiency.

Those who earn all or part of their employment income though commission on their sales are also entitled to earn at least the equivalent of minimum wage. In the event that an employee’s sales commissions do not total at least the minimum wage for the number of hours worked in a given pay period, the employer is obligated to pay the difference between the commissions earned and the minimum wage. As a result, employees should always receive at least minimum wage for all hours worked in each pay period.

Section 16 of the ESA provides that an employer must pay an employee at least the minimum wage set out in the Regulations to the act. Part 4 of the Regulation sets out the minimum hourly and daily wages.

Effective September 15, 2016, the general minimum wage rate in British Columbia is set at $10.85 Liquor servers are subject to a special minimum wage that is set at a lower rate of $9.60.  Future increases to the minimum wage will be tied to British Columbia’s Consumer Products Index. Further increases to British Columbia’s minimum wage are expected in September 2017.

The liquor server wage applies only to employees whose employment duties include serving liquor directly to customers, guests, members or patrons in licensed premises as a regular part of their work. If an employee’s employment duties include serving food and drink but not liquor, then the liquor server minimum wage rates does not apply and the regular minimum wage rate applies. This may include a server in an unlicensed premise, or a server in a licensed premise who does not work shifts during the hours where liquor may be served. The liquor server minimum wage rate does not apply to employees whose employment duties do not involve serving liquor directly to customers, such as host/hostess, busser, dishwasher or other workers in the kitchen, and must be paid the regular minimum wage. If one of these employees is occasionally required to serve liquor, the regular minimum wage rate would still apply to them.

It is important - particularly for employers in the service industry - to remember that the definition of wages does not include tips or gratuities. Even in circumstances where an employee may earn more from tips than from his or her salary, employers are prohibited from paying less than the minimum hourly rate.

For more information about minimum wages view the Minimum Wage Fact Sheet and the Interpretation Manual – Section 16 – Minimum Wage. For detailed frequently asked questions about the liquor server wage, please view the Minimum Wage Rate for Liquor Servers Fact Sheet and the Interpretation Manual– Regulation Section  18.1. For further information on how this applies to your operation, please contact the Employment Standards Branch at 1-800-663-3316.




No, not anymore.  On May 1, 2011, the first job/training wage of $6.00 per hour for employees with less than 500 hours of paid work experience was eliminated. All employees are entitled to be paid at least the minimum wage.


People who are being trained by an employer to work for the employer are entitled to minimum wages. This is because the definition of employee includes "a person being trained by an employer for the employer’s business" and training has been held to be work for the purposes of the ESA, thereby entitling trainees to wages.

Information provided by Ryan Anderson, an employment lawyer with Mathews Dinsdale & Clark LLP. The information provided in this article is necessarily of a general nature and must not be regarded as legal advice. For more information about Mathews Dinsdale & Clark LLP, please visit mathewsdinsdale.com.

This article may not be republished without the express permission of the copyright owner identified in the article.