Employment Standards in British Columbia, Ontario and Alberta

Amendments to BC’s Employment Standards Act (ESA) came into force on May 30, 2019. Employment standards legislation in Ontario and Alberta has also changed significantly in the last two years.

The following is a list of amendments that have been made in BC, some of which are already in force and the rest of which will come into force by regulation at some point in the future:

  • Certain ESA provisions apply to unionized workplaces, which must be met or exceeded;
  • Restrictions on deducting debts owed from employees’ wages;
  • Restrictions on employers’ ability to withhold employees’ gratuities;
  • Introduction of new unpaid leave period entitlements for critical illness or injury and for leave respecting domestic or sexual violence;
  • Requirement for temporary help agencies to be licensed;
  • Lengthening record-keeping obligations; and
  • Subject to certain exceptions, youth under the age of 14 will be prohibited from working generally and those under the age of 16 will be prohibited from working in “hazardous industries” and from performing “hazardous work”.

In Ontario, Restoring Ontario’s Competitiveness Act, 2019, known colloquially as Bill 66, received Royal Assent in April 2019, and is now law.

Highlights of the changes in Ontario legislation following Bill 66 include:

  • Posters: Ontario employers are no longer required to post in the workplace a poster providing information about the employment standards legislation and its associated regulations. However, employers are obligated to provide the most recent version of the poster to their employees.
  • Excess Hours: An employee’s weekly hours can exceed the limits set out in the legislation if the employee has made an agreement with the employer that he or she will work up to a specified number of hours in a work week in excess of the limit. The employer is no longer required to seek approval of the Director of Employment Standards for such an agreement.
  • Overtime Averaging: Ontario employers are no longer required to seek the approval of the Director of Employment Standards to enter into overtime averaging agreements with their employees.
  • Duration of Overtime Averaging Agreements: Under the previous terms of the Ontario legislation, averaging agreements applicable to unionized employees could not be valid for more than one year after they take effect.  Bill 66 allows these agreements to be effective until a subsequent collective agreement comes into operation. Note: If the employee is not represented by a trade union, the averaging agreement’s expiry date shall not be more than two years after the start date.

In Alberta, Bill 2: An Act to Make Alberta Open for Business (“Bill 2”) received Royal Assent on July 18, 2019. Along with the Employment Standards (Minimum Wage) Amendment Regulation, which took effect in June 2019, Bill 2 rolls back a number of employment and labour relations changes made under the province’s NDP government in 2017. Many of these changes will benefit Alberta employers, and include the following:

  • A reduction in minimum wage for students under the age of 18 and attending a secondary, post-secondary or vocational school;
  • As of September 1, 2019, general holiday pay calculations again distinguish between circumstances in which a general holiday occurs on a regular workday, and where it occurs on a day an employee is not regularly scheduled to work;
  • In order to be eligible for general holiday pay, an employee must have worked at least 30 days within the 12 month period before the general holiday; and
  • As of September 1, 2019, overtime can be banked at a 1:1 rate under an overtime agreement, which eliminated the need for Flexible Averaging Agreements.

Information provided by 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.