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Federally regulated employers need to be prepared for big changes in the near future if a newly introduced bill is passed by the Canadian federal government. Bill C-86, the Budget Implementation Act, 2018, No. 2 (Bill C-86”), if passed, would implement a number of changes to the employment standards that apply to federally-regulated workplaces under the Canada Labour Code (the “Code”). The introduction of Bill C-86 comes at a time when Ontario is moving to repeal many of the same protections through Bill 47.

Bill C-86 was tabled by the Federal Government on February 27, 2018, and was recently given its third reading on December 3, 2018. The bill passed its third reading before the Senate on December 12, 2018. Federal bills typically require that legislators draft additional regulations to supplement the main provisions of the bill before coming into force so it may still be some time before Bill C-86 becomes law.

Bill C-86 makes a number of significant changes to the Code, the most significant of those changes are the following:

Leaves of Absence

  • Personal Leave: Bill C-86 would introduce a new “Personal Leave” of 5 days that employees may use for: a personal illness or injury, healthcare responsibilities related to a family member, for education-related responsibilities related to a family member under 18 years of age, personal or familial urgent matters and to attend citizenship ceremonies. As proposed, Personal Leave would replace the “Family Responsibility Leave” introduced by Bill C-63 which has not yet come into force. The first 3 days of personal leave would be paid after 3 months of service.
  • Leave for Victims of Family Violence: Bill C-86 would also expand the leave for victims of family violence introduced by Bill C-63 by providing that 5 of the 10 existing days of leave will be paid where previously all 10 were unpaid. Employees would also have expanded access to sick leave under the new bill.
  • Medical Leave: The “Sick Leave” entitlement would be renamed to “Medical Leave” and would be available for organ or tissue donation and medical appointments during work hours where previously it was only available for personal illness or injury. The entitlement would remain fixed at 17 weeks. Employees would be entitled to both leaves after 3 months of service.
  • Court of Jury Duty Leave: Bill C-86 would provide that employees are entitled to unlimited court or jury duty leave time.
  • Maternity, Paternal, Critical Illness and Death or Disappearance Leaves: Bill C-86 would also remove the minimum service requirement that an employee complete 6 months of continuous service before becoming entitled to maternity, parental, critical illness and death or disappearance leaves.

Vacations, Vacation Pay and Holiday Pay

Bill C-86 would expand federal employees’ vacation entitlements to become the most generous in the country. Federal employees would be entitled to:

  • 2 weeks of vacation after 1 year of service and 4% vacation pay;
  • 3 weeks of vacation after 5 years of service and 6% vacation pay; and
  • 4 weeks of vacation after 10 years of service and 8% vacation pay.

Additionally, Bill C-86 provides that employees who work for a provincially regulated employer who becomes federally regulated by virtue of the sale of the business would be credited for all years of service while the business was provincially regulated for the purposes of calculating their vacation entitlements.

Bill C-86 would also remove the minimum service requirement that an employee be employed for 30 days before they would be paid for statutory holidays.

Termination Protections

Bill C-86 would create a graduated scale for dismissed employees at the federal level similar to the system used in Ontario. Currently, federally regulated employees are only entitled to 2 weeks of statutory notice if an employer is going to terminate their employment. As proposed under Bill C-86, employees would be entitled to 2 weeks’ notice after 3 months of service, and thereafter an additional 1 week of notice per year of service to a maximum of 8 weeks total.

Bill C-86 would also entitle “redundant employees”, those dismissed as part of a group termination of 50 or more over a 4-week period, or as prescribed by the regulations, to receive at least 8 weeks of notice.

New Equal Pay Provisions

Bill C-86 would also impose new equal pay requirements on federally regulated employers. Bill C-86 would impose a general prohibition on employers from providing different rates of pay on the basis of employment status. This prohibition which would prohibit employers from paying a part-time employee less than a full-time employee who is performing substantially the same work. Temporary help workers would also benefit from equal pay provisions which would stipulate that a temporary help agency is prohibited from paying temporary employees less than full-time employees of the agency’s clients where those temporary workers are performing the same job.

Bill C-86 does provide for certain exceptions to the proposed equal pay provisions: if the differential pay results from seniority, a merit-based system, a system which measures earnings by production or any other prescribed reason, the difference in rate of pay will be allowed.

Bill C-86 would also entitle employees and temporary employees to request a review of their rate of pay and employers would be required to respond, either by raising the employee’s wages or explaining, in writing, why they did not.

Additionally, employers who have a practice of advertising promotion opportunities internally, they would be required to advertise these opportunities to all employees irrespective of their employment status. These changes largely mirror certain provisions that are being repealed by Bill 47 in Ontario.

Hours of Work Amendments

Bill C-86 would impose new scheduling requirements on employers.

  • Notice of Schedule: Employers would be required to give at least 96 hours’ notice before implementing a new schedule. Employees would be entitled to refuse to work any shifts requested with less than 96 hours’ notice without fear of reprisal.
  • Meal Breaks: Employees would also be entitled to 30-minute meal breaks for each 5 hours of consecutive work performed. If the employee must work through the meal break, the employee would have to be paid for that work.
  • Minimum Rest Periods: Employees would also be entitled to at least 8 hours of rest between each work shift.

Other Changes

In addition to the changes noted above, Bill C-86 would make a number of additional changes, including:

  • Raise the minimum age of employment from 17 to 18, subject to certain exceptions set out in the regulations.
  • Expand the range of healthcare professionals from whom employees may request medical documentation to support a leave of absence from “qualified medical practitioners” to the broader class of “health care practitioners”.
  • Requiring employers to provide employees with Ministerial publications that outline employment rights and obligations.

Takeaway

The federal government’s decision to release Bill C-86 at this juncture coincides with Ontario’s repeal of many of the same reforms through Bill 47. While Ontario employers will not have to contend with many of the additional costs Bill 148 would have imposed, the federal legislation is an indication that employment standards will likely continue to progress in this direction going forward. Bill C-86, though not applicable to most Ontario employers, could put pressure on provincial governments to enact similar legislation in their provinces. The bulk of workers in Canada fall under provincial regulation so Bill C-86 will not affect most employers but businesses should keep an eye on this legislation and how it is received by the provinces as it may be indicative of what is to come.

This blog is provided as an information service and summary of workplace legal issues.

This information is not intended as legal advice.