B.C. Introduces Amendments to Employment Standards Act
B.C.’s Employment Standards Act is the law which sets minimum standards for workplaces in the province. These amendments are expected to pass the legislature and become law this spring.
Increase in minimum working age
After the legislation passes, it will no longer be possible to employ 12 and 13 year-olds. 14 and 15 year-olds may be employed for “light work” with the approval of their parent/guardian. The Ministry of Labour’s background document to the amendments provided “stocking shelves at a grocery store” as an example of light work.
Increased retention requirements
Employers are required to retain records for four years instead of two for:
- Payroll records (under section 28 of the Act)
- Agreements to average hours of work (under section 37)
- Agreements to substitute another day for a statutory holiday (under section 48)
- Reimbursements for cleaning and maintenance of special clothing (under section 25)
Expanded job-protected leaves
The legislation creates a new unpaid job-protected leave for those caring for critically-ill family members— allowing workers to take up to 36 weeks to care for a critically ill child and up to 16 weeks to care for an adult. This is in alignment with federal employment insurance benefits.
The amended legislation will provide unpaid job-protected leaves for workers attempting to escape domestic violence.
Changes to wage recovery provisions
The amended legislation establishes a legal framework for regulating gratuities and prohibits employers from withholding tips or other gratuities from workers, deducting amounts from them, or requiring them to be turned over to the employer. It permits tip pooling but specifies that the employer may not share in the tip pool except when the employer performs the same work as workers who share in the pool.
The legislation also extends the recovery period during which workers can recover owed wages from their employer from six months to 12 months — with the possibility of extending the period to 24 months under some circumstances, such as in cases involving willful or severe contraventions of the Act.
It also makes certain collective agreement provisions subject to the minimum requirements of the Employment Standards Act.
Communication of employee rights under the Act
Employers will be required to make information available to their employees about their rights under the Act in a form approved by the Director of the Employment Standards Branch.
Changes to Employment Standards Branch services
The amended legislation will remove the requirement for employees to use the self-help kit before submitting a formal complaint to the Employment Standards Branch. In lieu of the self-help kit, Government has committed to introducing a complaints process to support the enforcement of employment standards. The Branch will hire 40+ workers this year in order to run the complaints process and address the backlog of complaints.
The legislation requires the director of the Employment Standards Branch to investigate all complaints accepted for resolution by the branch.
The legislation also addresses several other areas related to services provided by the Employment Standards Branch — including allowing the branch to waive or raise penalties, requiring employers to inform workers of their rights and requiring licensing for temporary help agencies.
RCC will monitor the progress of these amendments. In concert with other business associations, RCC will communicate with Government regarding implementation of the amendments, and will inform members of our progress.
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If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact: Greg Wilson, Director, Government Relations (British Columbia) at firstname.lastname@example.org or 604-736-0368.