Employers, Be Aware! Recent Changes to the Canada Labour Code You Need to Know About

Numerous changes to the Canada Labour Code in 2019, 2020 and now in 2021 mean big changes for federally regulated employers across Canada. First Nations governments will need to review their Human Resources policies and practices to ensure consistency with the new requirements and to avoid incurring any potential liability for non-compliance.

New mandatory requirements that came into effect January 1, 2021 include:

  • Harassment and Violence in the Workplace

Employers are required to create a workplace Harassment and Violence Prevention Policy. Establishing this policy involves several steps, including conducting a workplace violence assessment, establishing emergency procedures for potential threats, developing and providing training programs, implementing support and resolution measures, and other administrative and reporting duties.

  • Pay Equity and Transparency

Employers will be subject to altered salary reporting requirements and new mandatory record retention duties. These changes aim to address wage gaps experienced by women, Indigenous peoples, persons with disabilities, and members of visible minorities. There will be additional changes to the pay equity regime enacted throughout 2021.

  • Administrative Monetary Penalties for OH&S Violations

Canada has established new administrative monetary penalties for contravention of federal occupational health and safety standards and requirements. These penalties include fines up to $250,000 and public notice of employers who break these laws.

  • Continuing COVID-19 Measures

During 2020, Canada modified Occupational Health & Safety obligations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. These temporary COVID-19 related measures, including new leave-related provisions and the extension of lay-off periods, are continuing in 2021.

Other recent changes to the Canada Labour Code that are already in effect, include:

  • Leaves and Vacations Updates – effective September 1, 2019

Several new leave categories and an increase in vacation pay have been added and should be accounted for in employer leave policies.

  • Hours, Overtime, and Breaks Updates – effective September 1, 2019

Changes have been made to ensure that employees are provided predictable schedules and notice of shifts, options for flexible work arrangements, and sufficient breaks.

  • Complaints and Reprisals – effective July 29, 2019.

New restrictions have been added to the complaint filing process and employees are now protected against employers taking reprisals against them in contravention of specific sections of the Code dealing with issues such as hours of work, wages, the right to refuse work, pregnancy, garnishment, work-related injuries or illness and some leaves.

  • Protective Equipment and Preventative Measures – effective July 10, 2019

The standards related to protective equipment and preventative measures under the Canada Occupational Health and Safety Regulations have been updated.

  • Recovering Unpaid Wages – effective April 1, 2019

Employees can now recover unpaid wages for a longer period of time, with additional fees added to the amounts they are owed.

These recent changes to the Canada Labour Code may mean that current workplace practices fall below the standard required by statute, which may increase an employer’s liability risk.

If you have questions about these recent changes and how they affect your organization or would like assistance in updating your Human Resources policies and procedures, please contact our office.