Legal News

BC Government Proposes Changes to the Employment Standards Act

On April 29, 2019, the BC Government introduced a bill in the Legislative Assembly to amend the Employment Standards Act (“ESA”).

The Government says the amendments incorporate recommendations from the BC Law Institute, the BC Employment Standards Coalition, the BC Federation of Labour, and feedback from employers, workers and the public.

Highlights of the proposed amendments include:

  • a requirement that unless collective agreement provisions in the area of hours of work or overtime, statutory holidays, annual vacation or vacation pay, seniority retention, recall and termination of employment or layoff meet or exceed the requirements of the ESA then the requirements of the ESA are incorporated into the collective agreement.  This was the test until 2002.  There are transitional provisions relating to the applicability of the new “meet or exceed” standards to existing collective agreements;
  • restrictions on hiring children such as: prohibiting the employment of a child under 14 years of age without the director’s permission; restricting the type of work 14 and 15 year old children may perform to light work; and prohibiting the employment of a child under 16 years old in hazardous industries or work;
  • a prohibition against employers withholding or making deductions from employees’ gratuities, unless the employer has a process which redistributes the gratuities among some or all of the employees;
  • a critical illness or injury leave, allowing an employee up to 36 weeks of unpaid leave to care for a family member who is under 19 years old and whose health is at risk as a result of an illness or injury, or up to 16 weeks for a family member who is 19 years old or older.  To qualify for this leave the ESA sets out strict requirements for medical certification;
  • a domestic violence leave, allowing an employee to take up to ten days annually, plus an additional 15 weeks, of unpaid leave for certain purposes defined in the ESA if the employee or eligible person experiences domestic violence.  An employer is entitled to request reasonably sufficient proof of entitlement;
  • an extension to the time period for an employee to recover unpaid wages from 6 months to 12 months, and a possible further extension to 24 months;
  • severance entitlements for an employee whose employment is terminated before the expiry of any notice of termination the employee may have given;
  • changes the process for initiating an investigation from a complaint driven process and now permits the Director to commence an investigation for any reason and at any time.  Again this is a return to 2002 legislation;
  • provides for a more detailed complaint handling process;
  • extends the length of time employers must keep records.

If the bill passes, many of the changes will come into force immediately after Royal Assent.