It has been a year of change for the Canada Labour Code. In a previous article, we described the large number of changes contained within the voluminous Bill C-86, A second Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on February 27, 2018 and other measures (the “Budget Implementation Act”).
This legislation was introduced by parliament at first reading on October 29, 2018 and was passed quickly, receiving royal assent on December 13, 2018.
Many of these new or amended provisions will take effect on September 1, 2019 or on some other day to be fixed by the Governor in Council. For example, a summary of all of the new and improved leaves resulting from the Budget Implementation Act can be found on the Government of Canada’s website.
But further changes to the Canada Labour Code are likely on the horizon. Over the past two years, the government conducted extensive consultations with stakeholders to determine what forward-looking federal labour standards should address. The changes described in the Budget Implementation Act were only one phase in the government’s plan to overhaul and modernize federal labour standards. While these amendments were aimed squarely at many of the areas targeted for modernization, five further issues remain to be considered by an expert panel announced earlier this year.
Federal Minimum Wage
The federal minimum wage is currently determined by the provincial minimum wage rate set in the province in which the employee is usually employed. Since there is no uniformity in minimum wages from one province or territory to another, this can lead to differences in pay rates within a single federally-regulated employer with operations in multiple jurisdictions. The expert panel will consider whether changes are required to the current system, such as the adoption of a single federal minimum wage.
Labour Standards Protections for Non-Standard Workers
Most labour standards tend to apply to workers in traditional employment relationships. With the advent of the gig economy and the prevalence of employees in part-time relationships with multiple employers, the expert panel will examine whether and to what extent labour standards should be extended to non-standards workers.
The Right to Disconnect
The Right to Disconnect has become a topic of interest as smart phones and other technology continue to blur the lines between work life and personal life. The expert panel will consider whether the government should set limits on work-related electronic communications outside of regular working hours.
Access and Portability of Benefits
Benefits such as statutory minimum annual vacations and other leaves are typically based on full-time, long-term employment with a single employer. Other benefits, including medical plans and retirement savings programs, are also usually tied to one employer. The longer an employee works with a particular employer, the more valuable that benefit becomes. The panel will examine whether the government should take steps to enhance access to these benefits by allowing portability from one employer to another.
A Collective Voice for Non-Unionized Workers
As the rate of unionization in private sector workplaces continues to decline, the expert panel will consider whether there are any gaps that need to be addressed in the opportunities for non-unionized workers to express their collective voice with regard to labour standards.
The expert panel was mandated to provide advice to the government on these issues by June 30, 2019. We will continue to monitor this situation for new developments and provide updates respecting further changes to the Canada Labour Code as they are announced.