The Governor General in Council has announced that the sweeping changes to the Canada Labour Code (the “CLC”), which affects federally regulated employees will come into force on December 3, 2017. The coming into force completes the amendments that were announced in Bill C-44, the Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 1, after it received Royal Assent on June 22, 2017. The changes were discussed in a previous legal update; however, a number of the more noteworthy changes are worth highlighting below.
Along with amendments to the Employment Insurance Act, Bill C-44 increased the unpaid parental leave of absence entitlement to keep in lockstep with the expanded time period for which parents may spread their Employment Insurance payments. Under the new entitlements for federally regulated employees, parents will be able to take an aggregate amount of maternity and parental leave of up to 78 weeks in respect of the birth or adoption of a child. In addition, further amendments to the CLC which incorporate a number of definitions from the Employment Insurance Act related to leaves of absence to care for a critically ill child or family member with a serious medical condition will be more widely available. The category of those who are eligible to take a leave of absence to care for a critically ill child will be expanded to include family members, rather than limiting the leave of absence for only those who are a parent.
The amendments to the CLC will also provide the Canada Industrial Relations Board with greater authority. The Board will now have the power to appoint an external adjudicator to rule on matters relating to occupational health and safety, hours of work, wages, vacations and holidays, and the new provisions of administrative monetary penalties. These external adjudicators will be endowed with all the powers, duties and functions of the Board in respect of any matter they have been appointed. The amendments also remove the use of Appeals Officers and provide that appeals from decisions of the Minister under Part II of the CLC will be referred to the Board. The Board will also become the appropriate forum to hear unjust dismissal complaints, rather than an adjudicator as it was under the previous regime.
Inspectors will also have an expanded authority under the new amendments. For instance, if an inspector forms the opinion that an employer is contravening, or has contravened, a provision under Part III, the inspector can issue a compliance order in writing, requiring the employer to terminate the contravention within a time frame specified by the inspector. Employers would also be required to comply with any specific steps and time frame provided by the inspector to ensure that the contravention does not continue to occur.
Finally, employees will now be able to make a complaint under Part III of the CLC in writing to the Board if they believe that their employer has taken any of the following reprisals against them:
- dismissing, suspending, laying off, or demoting the employee, imposing a financial or other penalty on the employee, or otherwise taking any disciplinary action against the employee, because the employee:
- has made a complaint under Part III, other than a complaint under section 240;
- has provided information regarding the wages, hours of work, annual vacation or conditions of work of any employee or provided any other assistance to the Minister or to an inspector in the exercise or performance of the Minister’s or the inspector’s powers, duties and functions under Part III;
- has testified or is about to testify in a proceeding taken or an inquiry held under Part III; or
- has exercised, or sought to exercise, any right conferred on the employee by Part III of the CLC.
- taking into account the fact that the employee has taken any of the actions referred to in the above point in any decision with respect to the promotion or training of the employee;
- threatening to take any of reprisals referred to in the above two points; or
- taking action against the employee in contravention of section 208, 209.3, 238, 239, 239.1 or 247.96 of the CLC.
It is important to remember that there are many significant changes for federally regulated workplaces that are being brought into force and that the above points represent only a portion of these changes. Should you have any questions, you are encouraged to review previous publications discussing this topic, or feel free to contact your regular lawyer at Norton Rose Fulbright Canada LLP.