Over the last few months, UCTE and PSAC have been participating as part of stakeholder consultations to the government’s review of the Canada Labour Code. The proposed changes are numerous and are seen by many to favour the employee.

The process is lengthy and complex with employers raising concerns such as their internal systems not being able to handle the changes to not being able to afford the costs.  Likewise, your union has concerns about wording that allows for standards less than those established by your collective agreements or conflict with other existing legislation such as the Canada Shipping Act.

The consultation process is continuing with the employers allowed to request exemptions and the unions providing feedback to the exemptions. Regardless, some provisions have already taken effect or will come into play as of September 1st. Here is a brief summary of the changes you need to know:

Hours of Work

  • Rest periods
    • Members are now entitled to a 30-minute unpaid break every 5 consecutive hours of work.
    • A rest period of at least 8 hours between shifts except in case of an emergency
    • Any unpaid breaks necessary for medical reasons or for an employee who is nursing to nurse or express breast milk.
  • Notice of schedule
    • Members are to be provided with their work schedule in writing at least 96 hours before the start of the first scheduled work period or shift.

Note: If your collective agreement specifies otherwise, your employer may provide less than 96 hours’ notice

  • Notice of Shift Change
    • Employers will be required to give at least 24 hours’ notice of any change to a period or shift during which an employee is due to work.
  • Time off in lieu of overtime
    • Members who work overtime may choose to take time off instead of receiving pay for overtime hours of at least 1½ times the regular rate.
  • Right to refuse overtime
    • Except in emergency situations, members may refuse to work overtime in order to fulfill family responsibilities. You must demonstrate that you have taken reasonable steps to carry out reasonable steps to address those responsibilities prior to refusing the overtime.
  • Modified work schedules
    • Modified work schedules now apply to individual employees and not just groups. This includes those under which the hours exceed the maximum set out in the Code.
  • Flexible work arrangements
    • After six consecutive months of continuous employment with an employer, members will have the right to request in writing a change to the following terms and conditions of their employment:
      • The number of hours that you are required to work;
      • the member’s work schedule
      • the members’ location of work and

The employer can grant the request in whole or in part or may refuse the request all together.

Leaves of absence

  • Personal leave
    • Members are entitled to personal leave of up to 5 days per calendar year for specified purposes such as illness or injury or caring for family members. After 3 consecutive months of employment, the first 3 days are personal leave each calendar year are with pay.
  • Medical leave
    • Existing sick leave provisions will be renamed medical leave and will now include organ donation and medical appointments during working hours.
  • Victims of family violence
    • A member who is a victim of family violence or who is the parent of a child who is the victim of family violence is entitled to a leave of absence of up to 10 days in a calendar year. The first 5 days of leave each calendar year are with pay if the member has completed 3 consecutive months of continuous employment.
  • Court or jury duty leave
    • Members will be entitled to an unpaid leave of absence to attend court to appear as a witness, act as juror or participate in the jury selection process.
  • Bereavement leave
    • This has been increased from 3 to 5 days with the first 3 days paid. This leave may be taken in one or two periods.
  • Traditional Aboriginal practices
    • Members who are Aboriginal and who have completed three consecutive months of continuous employment is entitled to an unpaid leave of up to 5 days per calendar year to engage in traditional Aboriginal practices.
  • Entitlement to maternity; parental; critical illness; or death or disappearance of a child
    • There is no longer a minimum service requirement for members to be eligible for these leaves

Vacation and holiday pay

  • Vacation Time
    • Annual vacation may be taken in more than one period. Members will also be able to postpone, interrupt and resume vacation in order to take a leave of absence or time off on account of injury or illness.
  • Holiday pay
    • Members are now entitled to holiday pay for a general holiday that occurs within a member’s first 30 days of employment.

Other important provisions to note:

  • Continuous employment upon the transfer of a work, undertaking or business (successorship)
    • Successorship rights now apply to businesses that become federally-regulated after a transfer of a business. This is in addition to transfers between two federally-regulated employers.
    • Also, a new provision also determines employment to be continuous if, due to the awarding of a contract through a retendering process, the second employer becomes responsible for carrying out any particular federal work that was previously carried out by the first employer.
  • National Day for Truth and Reconciliation
    • Bill C-369 proposed to amend the Code to make September 30th the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, a new federal holiday. This Bill had passed Third Reading in the House of Commons in March. Unfortunately, the Senate has not approved it and adjourned for the summer. It is unclear as to the fate of this bill since the senate will not resume until September 17th.

There are many changes that are expected to come into force in 2020 including amendments that relate to workplace harassment and violence, employment equity, changes to the minimum age for working to 18 and several others.

Next steps

As mentioned above, the consultation process is ongoing. Of concern is the employer’s right to request exemptions to the changes. At this time, if an employer requests an exemption for application of the code to a certain occupational group in that work place, that exemption, if granted will apply to all working groups across Canada. This has us very concerned and we are highlighting this to the Labour Canada.

We believe that the Canada Labour Canada is the minimum standard from which all employers should base themselves. Our members deserve all of the protections possible.

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