Changes to the Canada Labour Code

September is a busy time of year, not the least for federally regulated employers. On September 1, changes to the Canada Labour Code came into effect and must be implemented by all federally regulated workplaces. 

First Nations bands and organizations are usually regulated by the Canada Labour Code and not provincial employment standards legislation.  For this reason, it is important for First Nations to routinely review their internal employment policies and procedures to ensure they are in line with the requirements of the Code.  New and significant changes to the Code, such as those discussed below, can suddenly put a First Nation’s policies out of sync with the law, and create risk for First Nations as employers.  Policies and contracts that do not comply with the requirements and minimums established in the Code can result in complaints to federal inspectors or civil litigation against the Nation.

JFK Law Corporation has expertise assisting First Nations employers dealing with the Canada Labour Code and other legislation affecting federally regulated workplaces (e.g.the Canadian Human Rights Act).  Please contact us for assistance with your labour, employment, and human rights needs.

Find below a summary of recent changes and contact JFK Law Corporation for assistance in adapting these new rules to your workplace.  The information provided is a summary and is not intended to be legal advice.  Please contact us for formal advice.

Breaks and Rest Periods

30-minute breaks – Every employee is to be provided with a break of at least 30 minutes for every 5 consecutive hours of work. If the employer requires the employee to be available during the break, the break period is to be paid.

8 hours’ rest between shifts – Every employee is entitled to at least 8 consecutive hours off between work periods or shifts, except in emergency situations.

Breaks for medical reasons – Employees are entitled to unpaid breaks for health reasons and employees who are nursing are entitled to breaks to nurse or express breast milk.  Employers may request that the employee provide a medical certificate to substantiate any requests.

Notice of Schedule and Overtime

Except in certain emergency situations, employees are entitled to:

  • 96 hours’ notice of shift schedule – Employees are to be provided notice of their work schedule in writing at least 96 hours before the start of the work period or shift. Employees have the right to refuse a shift that starts within 96 hours of the time they receive the schedule.
  • 24 hours’ notice of shift change – Employers must provide employees with at least 24 hours’ written notice of change to a shift.
  • Right to refuse overtime – Employees may refuse overtime to carry out certain family responsibilities, if they have taken reasonable steps to address those responsibilities prior to refusing the overtime.

Overtime as time off – Subject to some conditions, an employee who works overtime may choose to have pay or time off at the overtime rate of at least 1½ times the regular hourly rate.

Vacations and Holidays

Vacations – Employees are now entitled to the following paid time off:

  • at least 2 weeks (4% vacation pay) if they have completed one year of employment;
  • at least 3 weeks (6% vacation pay) if they have completed at least 5 consecutive years of employment; and,
  • at least 4 weeks (8% vacation pay) if they have completed at least 10 consecutive years of employment.

General holidays – Employees are entitled to holiday pay for a general holiday that occurs within the first 30 days of employment.

N.B.: Employees starting on September 1 will be entitled to be paid for Labour Day on September 2.

Leaves of absence

The Code has added new leaves of absence and updated existing ones.  While some leaves have a 3-month employment eligibility requirement, there is no minimum service requirement for employees taking the following leaves: maternity, parental, critical illness, or death or disappearance of a child.

Personal leave – Employees are entitled to personal leave of up to 5 days per calendar year for specified purposes such as illness or injury or caring for family members. If the employee has completed 3 consecutive months of continuous employment, the first 3 days of personal leave per calendar year are to be paid.

Victims of family violence – An employee who is a victim of family violence or who is the parent of a child who is the victim of family violence is entitled to a leave of absence of up to 10 days in a calendar year. The first 5 days of leave per calendar year are paid if the employee has completed 3 consecutive months of continuous employment.

Traditional Aboriginal practices – An employee who is an Aboriginal person and who has completed 3 consecutive months of continuous employment is entitled to an unpaid leave of up to 5 days per calendar year to engage in traditional Aboriginal practices, including hunting, fishing and harvesting.

Court or jury duty – Employees are entitled to an unpaid leave of absence to attend court as a witness, a juror, or to participate in a jury selection process.

Bereavement leave – This leave has increased from 3 days to 5 days for the death of an immediate family member and 3 of those days are with pay if the employee has completed 3 consecutive months of continuous employment.

Flexible work arrangements

Employees with 6 months of service may make a written request for changes to their:

  • hours of work;
  • work schedule;
  • location of work; or,
  • terms and conditions of work.

Employers may grant all or part of the request or may refuse the request, however, any such refusal must be based on the grounds identified in the Code or by regulation. When addressing requests for flexible work arrangements, employers should also consider their obligations under the Canadian Human Rights Act.

Further changes to the Canada Labour Code are still forthcoming and will be discussed in a further edition of the blog.