The majority of workers in the province of Quebec are entitled to receive the minimum wage established by the provincial government. The right to the minimum wage is set out in the Act respecting labour standards, which applies to most provincially-regulated employers and employees.
Certain categories of workers have clearly been exempted from the minimum wage requirement under the Regulations respecting labour standards:
- students employed in a non-profit organization having social or community purposes (such as a vacation camp or a recreational organization);
- trainees under a programme of vocational training recognized by law;
- trainees under a programme of vocational integration under the Act to secure handicapped persons in the exercise of their rights with a view to achieving social, school and workplace integration;
- employees entirely on commission who work in a commercial undertaking outside the establishment and whose working hours cannot be controlled.
Moreover, the same regulations set a different rate of pay for raspberry and strawberry pickers, the rate having been established on the basis of yield (i.e. for every kilogram picked).
Otherwise, as long as the Act respecting labour standards applies, regardless of how the employee is paid – with an hourly, weekly or annual wage, or by commission – the employer must ensure that the employee is receiving at least the minimum wage for the hours worked. This also means that training days or trial periods must be remunerated at least at the minimum wage (they are not “free” hours given by the employee)..
Moreover, when calculating the minimum wage, an employer cannot take into account any benefit it provides that has a pecuniary value. For example, if the employer provides the employee with an apartment, with the rent being paid by the employer, then the value of the rent cannot effectively reduce the wages paid to the employee below the minimum wage. The same rationale applies when the employer requires that an employee pay for the purchase or upkeep of equipment or materials if this brings the employee’s wages below the minimum salary.
An employer who fails to pay an employee the minimum wage exposes itself to a fine of $600 to $1,200 for a first offence, and to a fine of $1,200 to $6,000 for any subsequent amount.
Lastly, employers and employees alike take note: today, May 1st, the general minimum wage is increasing by $0.20 to $10.55 per hour (or to $9.05 per hour for employees who receive tips).
The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation has recently published an interesting portrait, through charts, of the types of workers who receive minimum wage in Quebec (see: http://ici.radio-canada.ca/nouvelles/societe/2015/04/30/001-qui-gagne-le-salaire-minimum-au-quebec.shtml): younger rather than older employees, more women than men, and those in the retail business, accommodation and food services.