On September 1st 2019, two federal bills came into force, each amending the Canada Labour Code (the “Code”). While most employer-employee relationships are regulated by provincial legislation, the Code applies to industries that fall under federal jurisdiction, such as inter-provincial transportation, telecommunications and banks.

 As a result of these amendments, federally regulated employers will have to adjust their practices, employment contracts and policies to ensure they comply with the newly vamped legislative scheme. Federal employees should also make a note of these changes, many of which bolster and expand minimum employment standards. Here is a brief overview of the modified entitlements under the Code:

1.     Vacation Pay

Prior to the present amendments, employees who had worked less than 6 years for an employer were only entitled to a 2-week vacation (with vacation pay) while employees who had worked for a period of more than 6 consecutive years were entitled to 3 weeks.

As of September 1st, 2019, federally regulated employees are entitled to:

  • 2-week vacation entitlement if the employee has completed at least 1 year of employment;
  • 3-week vacation entitlement if the employee has completed 5 years of continuous employment; and
  • 4-week vacation entitlement if the employee has completed 10 years of continuous employment.

2.     Employment Leaves

The Code also expands entitlements to leaves of absences for employees:

i)       Personal Leave: Every employee has a right to a Personal Leave of up to 5 days per year. The first 3 days of the five-day Personal Leave period will be paid. Personal Leave may be taken to:

  • Treat an injury or illness;
  • Carry out responsibilities related to the health or care of any of their family members;
  • Carry out responsibilities related to the education of any family members;
  • Address any urgent matter concerning themselves or their family members; or
  • Attend their citizenship ceremony.

 ii)        Medical Leave: Formerly known as “Sick Leave,” the Medical Leave (still) grants employees up to 17 weeks of unpaid leave, but is expanded as it can now be used in cases of personal injury, illness, organ donation or medical appointments during work hours.

 iii)       Bereavement Leave: Employees are now entitled to a Bereavement Leave of up to 5 days, as opposed to 3 days. If the employee has completed 3 months of continuous work for the employer, the first 3 days of the leave is paid.

 iv)       Leave for Traditional Aboriginal Practices: Under this new section, Aboriginal persons who have completed 3 months of consecutive work are entitled to unpaid leave of up to 5 days to engage in “traditional Aboriginal practices”.

 v)        Leave for Victims of Family Violence: Under this section, if an employee or an employee’s child is a victim of family violence, the employee is entitled to up to 10 days’ leave. If the employee has worked 3 consecutive months for the employer, the first 5 days of the leave is paid.

3.     Overtime

Prior to these amendments, the Code did not provide for arrangements between employers and employees to grant time off in lieu of overtime hours worked. The Code now provides that upon an employee’s request, the employer may grant 1.5 hours of paid time off for every hour of overtime worked, in lieu of overtime pay.

 As of September 1st, an employee will also be entitled to refuse to work overtime if they must carry out “family responsibilities”. The employee, however, is required to take reasonable steps to carry out these responsibilities by other means and attempt to work the requested overtime.

4.     Employee’s Right to Request Change in Working Conditions

An employee who has completed at least 6 months of continuous work for an employer is entitled to request a change to the terms and conditions of their employment. The employee may request, for example, a change in their work schedule or location of work. This request, however, does not guarantee the change itself. Employers must respond within 30 days of the request and choose to either grant (in part or in full) the request, or refuse under one of the prescribed grounds, which include:

  • The requested change would result in additional costs that would be a burden on the employer;
  • The requested change would have a detrimental impact on the quality or quantity of work within the employer’s industrial establishment, on the ability to meet customer demand or on any other aspect of performance within that industrial establishment;
  • The employer is unable to reorganize work among existing employees or to recruit additional employees in order to manage the requested change; and
  • There would be insufficient work available for the employee if the requested change was granted.

5.     Shift Changes & Schedules

The Code has been bolstered as to provide employees the right to know their schedule ahead of time, and be protected from sudden last-minute shift and schedule changes. For instance, subject to certain special circumstances, employers must now provide employees with a 24-hour written notice of a shift change.

The Code also imposes an obligation upon the employer to provide a 96 hours’ notice prior to implementing a new work schedule. In turn, the employee has a right to refuse to work any work period which was scheduled with less than 96 hours’ notice.

6.     Breaks & Rest Periods

Under the Code, employees are entitled to unpaid breaks of at least 30 minutes during every 5 hours of work. If the employer insists that the employee be at their disposal during these 30 minutes, the break must be paid.

Employees are also entitled to unpaid Medical Breaks and Nursing Breaks. An employer may request that the employee provide a medical certificate to motivate their Medical Break in order to determine the appropriate length and frequency of the breaks.

Finally, employees are entitled to a rest period of at least 8 consecutive hours between work periods.

If you have any questions about the changes to the Code, contact Lister-Beaupré LLP today at 613-234-2500. We offer legal advice and services in Employment and Labour law in both English and French. Whether you are an employer looking to revamp your employment contracts, or an employee unsure about your rights, we are happy to help