Canada - What’s new in employment law in 2019

Original Article: Caroline Spindler - Mathews, Dinsdale & Clark LLP, Lexology | Feb. 22, 2019

This article summarises the most important developments anticipated and already enacted in Canadian employment law in 2019, both at provincial and federal level.

We expect 2019 to bring a number of changes to employment, labour, occupational health and safety, human rights and workers’ compensation across the country, with many jurisdictions already adopting changes that were effective from 1 January 2019.

Newfoundland & Labrador

Atlantic Canada kicked off 2019 with changes to employment standards legislation. Newfoundland & Labrador introduced family violence leave, providing employees with three days paid and seven days unpaid family violence leave. The leave allows employees to seek medical and counselling services, the assistance of a transition house, legal services and time to move residences. Amendments to Newfoundland & Labrador’s workers’ compensation legislation also came into force on 1 January 2019, which replaced the pension replacement benefit with a lump sum retirement benefit, making retirement benefits available for more injured workers. Further amendments will come into force on 1 July 2019, which will provide presumptive PTSD coverage for workers who develop PTSD as a result of their work.

Nova Scotia

Amendments to Nova Scotia’s employment standards legislation provided employees who are victims of domestic violence with up to ten days unpaid leave, taken either continuously or intermittently, and up to 16 weeks unpaid leave taken in a continuous period in a calendar year. On 1 April 2019, Nova Scotia’s minimum wage will increase to CAD 11.55 per hour.

New Brunswick

This past November, a private member’s bill was introduced that would amend New Brunswick’s Pay Equity Act to make the Act applicable to employees employed outside the Public Service. Amendments to New Brunswick’s Employment Standards Act were also introduced which would see minimum wage in New Brunswick rise to CAD 12.00 per hour as of 1 April 2019. New Brunswick will also be ushering in changes to workplace violence and harassment regulations on 1 April 2019 which will require workplaces to implement codes of practice for the prevention of harassment in the workplace. Amendments to New Brunswick’s workers’ compensation legislation were also announced in November, that would eliminate the unpaid, three-day waiting period for injured workers to access benefits.

Prince Edward Island (PEI)

PEI may be introducing changes to provide employees with greater protection against workplace violence and bullying in 2019. Amendments to the Occupational Health and Safety Act requiring employers to implement policies and measures to prevent and investigate workplace harassment received royal assent in December 2018. PEI may also see the introduction of domestic violence leave and paid leave will be available for domestic violence, intimate partner violence or sexual violence under a newly amended Employment Standards Act that is likely to be proclaimed in force in 2019. Finally, PEI may also see changes to its workers’ compensation legislation in 2019 that would provide presumptive coverage for workers who develop PTSD as a result of their work.

Quebec

Moving closer to central Canada, as of 1 January 2019, a number of changes came into force impacting employees in Quebec. Changes include providing employees with entitlement to paid vacation sooner; a requirement for workplace harassment policy; an increase in bereavement leave and the establishment of domestic violence leave.

Ontario

Ontario leads the way in upcoming changes to employment legislation following the election of the Ford government. Upcoming changes would see the elimination of the requirement to post information regarding employment standards legislation in the workplace and the requirement that employers obtain permission from the Director of Employment Standards in order to enter into overtime averaging agreements with employees. The duration of averaging agreements applicable to unionised employees would also change. March 2019 will also bring changes to Ontario’s workplace violence and harassment regime by requiring employers to develop a code of practice regarding the management of violence in the workplace, as harassment and violence will be considered workplace hazards that impact health and safety under the Occupational Health and Safety Act. In the human rights realm, amendments to the Human Rights Code were introduced in the fall of 2018 that if passed, would see genetic characteristics, immigration status, police records and social characteristics added as protected grounds.

Manitoba

In the prairies, Manitoba’s minimum wage is set to increase to CAD 11.65 per hour on 1 October 2019.

Saskatchewan

We may see an expansion of statutory leave in Saskatchewan in 2019. Proposed amendments to the Saskatchewan Employment Act would see increases in maternity and parental leave, as well as critical illness leave for adult family members, and extension of interpersonal violence leave to include survivors of sexual violence. 1 January 2019, also marked the increase in minimum wage in Saskatchewan to CAD 12.00 per hour.

Alberta

On 1 January 2019, Alberta ushered in changes to the Employment Standards Code that clarified rules regarding youth employment. Firefighters in Alberta may be impacted by potential upcoming changes to employment standards legislation that would provide employees who are also part-time firefighters with unpaid leave to assist in fire services.

British Columbia

In British Columbia, 2019 may bring significant changes to the province’s labour relations and employment standards regimes. In October 2018, the BC Labour Relations Code Review Panel released recommendations including placing new restrictions on employer communications during union organising drives; greater discretion to the Labour Relations Board to certify a union without a vote; and allow the Labour Relations Board to impose fines on individuals and companies who fail to comply with Board orders. Changes are also expected to the Employment Standards Act, including increasing the limitation period for filing a complaint; repealing the current ‘time bank’ provision regarding overtime; and adopting compressed work week and alternate work pattern arrangements. 2019 may also mark the return of the British Columbia Human Rights Commission. The amendments would also extend time limits for filing human rights complaints and grant broad powers to the Commissioner. Minimum wage in British Columbia is set to increase to CAD 13.85 per hour on 1 June 2019.

Yukon, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut

In the north, we may see changes to employment standards legislation in the Yukon and Northwest Territories in 2019 that would increase parental leave to again align with federal legislation. Minimum wages in the Yukon and Nunavut are set to be reviewed on 1 April 2019.

Federal developments

Federally, we can expect to see the proclamation of amendments to the Canada Labour Code regarding workplace violence and harassment. On 17 March 2019, parents will be entitled to an additional five weeks of Employment Insurance parental benefits when both parents take time off. A bill was also introduced that proposes pay equity legislation that would apply to federally regulated employers and require private sector employers to establish pay equity plans, and a pay equity committee to identify, evaluate and eliminate differences in compensation between male and female jobs of equal or proportionate value. The proposed bill also includes changes to the Canada Labour Code that would impact meal and rest breaks, leaves, termination of employment, vacation and holiday pay.

Keep an eye out as changes unfold in the Canadian employment law landscape.