May 6, 2019 – By Azadeh Taghizadeh, Lawrence Smith and Daniel Sorensen
As the world around us advances, so does the workplace and so should our employment laws. There is no doubt that today’s economy and workplace issues are far different from those 30 to 40 years ago. Especially in British Columbia, the cost of living as increased dramatically and people are looking for new ways to earn money. In order to adapt to the modern workplace, revisions must be made to the Employment Standards Act (“ESA”).
As such, with help from the Employment Standards Act Reform Project Committee (the “Project Committee”), the British Columbia Law Institute has reviewed the ESA and published a report in December 2018 (the “Report”) setting out 71 recommendations to the government of British Columbia.
A summary of the 71 recommendations is on page 307 of the Report: https://www.bcli.org/wordpress/wpcontent/uploads/2018/12/Employment-Standards-Act.pdf
At the beginning of May 2019, Bill 8 – Employment Standards Amendment Act, a government bill, was introduced into the British Columbia Legislature. Bill 8 is in its First Reading in the Legislature, which is when a bill is received, and distributed among the members. During the First Reading the bill is not debated.
Some of the drafted changes contained in Bill-8 include:
- Increasing the amount an employer must pay an employee if there has been a contravention of the ESA, from 6 months to 12 months before the earlier of the date of the complaint or the termination of the employment;
- Removing the definition of “domestic” and adding a definition for “domestic worker”;
- Adding a definition for “temporary help agency,” “gratuities,” and “spouse”;
- Adding a section where employers have an obligation to provide employees information about the employees rights under the ESA;
- Increasing the minimum age for a child to work to 16 years of age in a hazardous industry and only allowing children under the age of 16 to work in “light work” and otherwise stated;
- Adding a requirement in which a farm labour contractor must be licensed under the Act;
- Increasing the amount of years an employer must keep payroll records after an employee is terminated from 2 years to 4 years after the date on which the payroll records were created.
- Adding limitations on how an employer may distribute gratuities (i.e. tips);
- Adding a section to allow an employee to take unpaid leave if the employee or a family member experiences domestic violence;
- Adding a section to allow an employee to take a leave to provide care and support for a family member who is at risk as a result of an illness or injury;
- Adding a section that imposes liability on an employer for terminating an employee during their resignation period;
- Adding sections that allow the Director of Employment Standards to extend the time for delivering a complaint and setting out how the Director of Employment Standards must deal with complaints that are received; and
- Adding a section which extends the time period in respect of which wages must be paid.
It will take some time before Bill 8 has gone through all stages in the Legislature prior to coming into effect and being enforceable.
It is best to keep a keen eye on possible changes to the ESA as this may require changes to workplace administrative matters, such as pay roll and HR policies.
Bill 8- Employment Standards Amendment Act, 2019 can be found here: https://www.leg.bc.ca/parliamentary-business/legislation-debates-proceedings/41st-parliament/4th-session/bills/first-reading/gov08-1