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BC Government Introduces Bill to Amend Employment Standards Act

On April 29, 2019, Labour Minister Harry Bains introduced in the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia for first reading Bill 8, the Employment Standards Amendment Act, 2019. If passed into law, Bill 8 will be the first major revision of the Employment Standards Act (the "ESA") in about 15 years.

Bill 8 introduces a number of changes to the ESA. Notably, the proposed changes include:

  • New statutory leaves

Bill 8 introduces new statutory leaves, including:

    • up to 36 weeks' unpaid leave per year to provide care or support to a family member who is under 19 years of age and up to 16 weeks' unpaid leave per year to provide care or support to a family member who is 19 years or older; and
    • up to 17 weeks' unpaid leave per calendar year for the purpose of dealing with domestic violence;
  • Requirement for collective agreements to meet or exceed employment standards minimums
    • Currently, the ESA provides that, if a collective agreement contains provisions respecting matters such as hours of work and overtime, annual vacation and vacation pay, statutory holidays, and recall, termination of employment, and layoff, the ESA will not apply.
    • Bill 8 requires all collective bargaining agreements to provide for terms and conditions of employment that meet or exceed the terms and conditions provided under the ESA, including in respect of the foregoing matters. Note that this change would not affect any collective agreements in effect as at the date this change comes into force, but it would affect any collective agreements settled after the date the change comes into force.
  • Requirement to pay severance if an employee is terminated
    • If an employee has provided notice of resignation and the employer dismisses the employee without cause during the resignation notice period, Bill 8 requires the employer to pay the employee an amount equal to the lesser of: (i) the balance of the resignation notice period; or (ii) the employee's minimum pay in lieu of notice pursuant to the ESA.
  • Extended wage recovery period
    • Wage recovery will be extended from the current six months to twelve months from the date a complaint is made or the employee's employment is terminated.
  • Regulation of gratuities
    • Bill 8 prohibits an employer from withholding, deducting, or requiring the return of gratuities except for the purpose of redistributing those gratuities among the employer's employees. Bill 8 also provides a definition of "gratuities".
  • Changes to corporate officer liability
    • Bill 8 defines "director", "officer", and "corporation" for the purpose of corporate officer liability for unpaid wages.
    • Bill 8 also provides discretion for the Director of Employment Standards to waive any monetary penalty assessed against a corporate officer if: (i) the corporate officer is required to pay wages owing to an employee and complies with that requirement; (ii) the corporate officer's contravention was not deliberate or negligent; or, (iii) despite being found to have contravened the Employment Standards Act, the corporate officer provided a defence that, in the Director's opinion, reflected an arguable interpretation of the law or a valid dispute on the facts.

Note that Bill 8 may be subject to revision prior to being passed into law by the Legislative Assembly.

Lawson Lundell's Labour, Employment, and Human Rights Group will continue to monitor developments in respect of Bill 8 and any changes to British Columbia's employment law. Stay tuned - further updates will be posted on our blog.

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Lawson Lundell's Labour and Employment Law Blog provides updates on the most recent legal developments impacting the Canadian workplace and offers practical tips for employers. We cover a range of topics, including labour relations, employment law, collective bargaining, human rights, employment standards, employment equity, workers' compensation, business immigration, privacy, occupational health and safety and pensions and employee benefits. 

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