In April 2019, the Provincial Government introduced Bill 8 and Bill 30 to amend the BC Employment Standards Act (“ESA”) and Labour Relations Code, respectively. On May 30, 2019, these bills received Royal Assent and the new laws are now in effect. The new legislation represents a boon for employees and unions. Therefore, employers will want to be mindful of their increased responsibilities.
Notable changes to the Labour Relations Code
- The Labour Relations Code’s previous free speech provision, which was relatively permissive of employer speech, has been scaled-back. Now employers may only give “statements of fact or opinion reasonably held with respect to an employer’s business.” This is the same language as was found prior to 2002, which was generally interpreted by the Labour Relations Board to be more restrictive of employer statements towards trade unions and labour organizations.
- Certification and decertification votes must now be taken within 5 business days of the application, which is a reduction from the previous requirement of 10 days.
Notable changes to the ESA
- Employers will not be able to use their collective agreement language to opt-out of several requirements, such as hours of work, overtime, vacations etc., under the ESA. It is now the law that collective agreements must meet or exceed the requirements provided for in the ESA.
- Employees under the ESA are now entitled to greater leave options related to domestic or sexual violence. This can be to seek counselling, assistance from social services, legal counsel and others.
- Employees under the ESA must now be given up to 36 weeks of leave to attend to their children regarding critical illness or injury.
One significant difference from our previous posts regards construction-industry raids under the Labour Relations Code. A proposal that construction unions be allowed to raid annually was unsuccessful. As a result, the construction industry is subject to the same three-year raid restrictions as all other industries.
It should further be noted that changes to the ESA concerning the hiring of children, the licensing of temporary help agencies, investigations, complaints and determinations, will come into force by regulation at a later date. The remaining changes to the ESA and Labour Relations Code are now in force.