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British Columbia Employer Advisor Keeping Employers Posted on Developments in Labour and Employment Law

Category Archives: Employment Standards

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Time Off to Vote in Municipal Elections?

Posted in Employee Obligations, Employment Standards, Labour Relations, Wage and Hours

Are employers obligated to give employees time off to vote in the general local elections this Saturday, November 15?

The short answer is no. Unlike in provincial and federal elections, there is no statutory obligation under the Local Government Act on employers to provide employees with time off from work to vote in local government or municipal elections. The polls for these elections are open from 8am-8pm, and employees may vote in advance polls or even by mail ballot if they have conflicting commitments on the general voting day.

Although there is no legal obligation to provide time off, we … Continue Reading

Teachers’ Strike: What does it mean for your workplace?

Posted in Accommodation, Discrimination, Employment Standards, Family Status, Human Rights, Labour Relations, Unions, Wage and Hours

While talks continue, there is no immediate end in sight for the ongoing teachers’ strike. For employees with school-age children, this may mean facing a child care gap starting next week. As an employer, what are your legal obligations and what can you do to make sure work continues while school’s out?

The Legal Framework

First, the Employment Standards Act provides all employees in the province with up to five (5) unpaid days of family responsibility leave each year for the care, health and education of a child in an employee’s care.  Employers do not have the discretion to … Continue Reading

Update on Overtime Class Actions in Canada

Ontario Court approves unique settlement of overtime class action

Posted in Employment Standards, Litigation, Wage and Hours

Canadian employers have been watching a series of class action claims, with employees claiming hundreds of millions of dollars in unpaid overtime, since 2007. While overtime class action claims are still not possible in British Columbia (for the reasons discussed here), claims can balloon in other provinces when a representative plaintiff claims unpaid overtime for themselves and on behalf of colleagues.

On August 12, 2014, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice approved the settlement of one of these overtime class actions, Fulawka v. The Bank of Nova Scotia.  Our colleagues in Calgary have posted about this recent development … Continue Reading

Saskatchewan: New Hotbed of Labour Law?

Posted in Employment Standards, Labour Relations, Unions, Wage and Hours

With brand new labour and employment legislation, and a major case before the Supreme Court of Canada, Saskatchewan seems to be the current ‘centre of the action’ in Canadian labour law.

Constitutional Right to Strike?

On May 16, 2014, a very significant labour law appeal – Saskatchewan Federation of Labour v. Saskatchewan, from the Saskatchewan Court of Appealwas argued before the Supreme Court of Canada. The Saskatchewan Federation of Labour and other unions argued that two pieces of provincial legislation violated employees’ right to freedom of association protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.Continue Reading

What Do Your Policies Say About Termination?

… and does it matter?

Posted in Damages, Employment Standards, Termination, US vs.Canadian Employment Law, Wrongful Dismissal

Many employers have policies about termination, and specifically about what an employee is entitled to if terminated without cause.  It is a good idea to try to manage the cost of terminations, but it needs to be done properly to be effective.

Oliver v. Sure Grip Controls is a recent case where a termination policy was reviewed.  The employer tried to limit its liability by reference to the policy set out in the employee handbook.  The employer had gone to the trouble of having the handbook reviewed and signed by the employee, but the handbook included this underlined statement:

I Continue Reading

From the Desk of the HR Manager: Spring Cleaning – Performing an HR Audit

Posted in Discipline, Employment Standards, Litigation, Occupational Health and Safety, Privacy, Termination, Wage and Hours, Workers Compensation, WorkSafeBC

Our colleagues in Ontario recently posted a very useful outline of an HR audit that will help BC employers ensure they stay up-to-date and on top of the wide variety of employment-related demands in their operations. As the saying goes, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”.… Continue Reading

Proposed Employment Law Reform in Ontario

Bill 146 Worth Watching

Posted in Employment Standards, Immigration, Investigations, Litigation, Occupational Health and Safety, Unions, Wage and Hours, Workers Compensation

The Ontario government has introduced a bill to make significant changes to employment law in that province.  Every BC employer with employees in Ontario should follow the course of these proposed changes.

As our colleagues in Ontario note, the Bill may not become law under the current government, but the proposals are wide-ranging and follow earlier Law Reform Commission recommendations.  See their analysis here.… Continue Reading

Best of the Blogs

Items of Interest for BC Employers

Posted in Employee Obligations, Employment Standards, Human Capital, Human Rights, Litigation, Privacy, Termination, Wage and Hours

Our firm now publishes 10 different blogs, and they often have items of interest for BC employers.  Here is a sampling of recent posts:

Customer Contacts on Linkedin = Property of the Employer – good news from the UK courts.

Five Employment Issues Facing Retailers – similar issues for retailers in BC.

Notices of Termination – can you terminate an employee before the effective date of their resignation?

Restrictive Covenants and Sale of a Business – how are they interpreted and when will they be enforced?

10 Things You Should Know About BC’s New Limitation Act - including reducing the … Continue Reading

No Double Recovery by Employee

Employment Standards Damages Deducted from Wrongful Dismissal Damages

Posted in Damages, Employment Standards, Termination, Wrongful Dismissal

A British Columbia employer has won a case to avoid double recovery of Employment Standards and wrongful dismissal damages.  The decision in Roy v. Metasoft Systems Inc. is another piece of good news for employers to go with our recent post about the BC Human Rights Tribunal helping to discourage forum hopping.

Ms. Roy was a software sales associate.  She complained to her employer about not getting all the commissions she thought she had earned.  She threatened to file a complaint for unpaid wages with the Employment Standards Branch.  The employment relationship went downhill from there and her employment was … Continue Reading

If Employees are Telecommuting …

Bucking the Yahoo! Trend

Posted in Employee Obligations, Employment Standards, Human Capital, Occupational Health and Safety, Wage and Hours

Telecommuting may be on the way out at Yahoo! but it is very much alive elsewhere.  So if you have employees who are working from home, or if you are considering it,  you should think through the employment issues.

The first question is:   Do you have a written agreement to set out the telecommuting rules?  If not, you need one.

The next question is:  What does the telecommuting agreement need to address?  Here is a list of some issues to consider:

  • How do you monitor and manage hours of work?   Unless you fit into one of the exemptions in the
  • Continue Reading

Annual Client Conference

Conference Materials Available Online

Posted in Benefits, Compensation, Pensions, Employee Obligations, Employment Standards, Human Rights, Litigation, Occupational Health and Safety, Privacy, Termination

Thanks to over 230 clients who attended our annual full day client conference on Friday March 8.

The materials for all the presentations and workshops are available online here.

The materials cover:

  • What we can expect from an NDP government in Victoria
  • Privacy in workplace computers
  • Bill 14 – The new harassment, bullying and violence in the workplace provisions
  • Pension and Benefits law developments
  • A review of human rights, employment and labour cases from the past 12 months
  • Thinking about staying non-union
  • Written employment contracts and policies
  • Best practices in terminations
  • Continue Reading

Collective Agreement Severance Not Payable

Only accrued rights survive termination of the agreement

Posted in Employment Standards, Labour Relations, Termination, Unions, Wrongful Dismissal

Employees terminated after the expiry of their collective agreement are not entitled to severance pay.  That is the bottom line, and the end of the line, for the former employees of Mercury Graphics since November 8, 2012 when the Supreme Court of Canada refused to hear their appeal.  The Saskatchewan Court of Appeal decision stands and provides some useful guidance for employers throughout Canada.

It is important to note that the result could be different under different collective agreement language.  Some things to consider are highlighted below.

In the case of Mercury Graphics, the collective agreement term ended and the … Continue Reading

Month in Review

Posted in Accommodation, Age, Benefits, Compensation, Pensions, Damages, Discipline, Discrimination, Employee Obligations, Employment Standards, Family Status, Human Capital, Human Rights, Immigration, Investigations, Just Cause, Labour Relations, Litigation, Murphy's Laws of HR, Privacy, Recruiting, Termination, Unions, US vs.Canadian Employment Law, Wage and Hours, Workers Compensation, Wrongful Dismissal

The bloggers of BC Employer Advisor issued our first Month in Review to summarize our most recent posts.

Visit the summary here.

 … Continue Reading

At Will Employment: What’s the Big Deal?

Posted in Damages, Employment Standards, Just Cause, Termination, US vs.Canadian Employment Law, Wrongful Dismissal

Employment in Canada is not “at will”. But is at will employment really all it’s cracked up to be? Does it make the United States a friendlier place for employers?

We don’t think so and we are happy to engage Jeff Polsky in the discussion.

Jeff started this on the California Employment Law blog with a post, Like a Whole Different Country, suggesting that being an employer without at will employment was too scary to contemplate. Well, the fact is that employers in Canada are doing just fine, thank you very much, having traded the lottery of at will … Continue Reading

Overtime Class Actions and the Special Position of BC Employers

Posted in Discrimination, Employment Standards, Human Capital, Immigration, Recruiting, Wage and Hours

Big news from Ontario on overtime claims – the Court of Appeal will allow claims for statutory overtime by CIBC and Bank of Nova Scotia employees to proceed as class actions.

Fortunately for British Columbia employers, such class actions are still not possible in British Columbia.

CIBC won the first two rounds of the fight, and BNS was hoping to get the same break at the Ontario Court of Appeal.  Instead, both class action claims have been certified, allowing the overtime claims on behalf of the banks’ employees to proceed.  Subject to appeals to the Supreme Court of Canada, employees … Continue Reading

Termination Clauses and Mitigation

Posted in Damages, Employee Obligations, Employment Standards, Litigation, Termination, Wrongful Dismissal

A recent Ontario Court of Appeal decision sounds a warning to employers – if you want to have a set amount of notice or compensation for termination without cause, AND you want to require the former employee to mitigate, you need to say so explicitly in the contract.

Goss Power Products had a written contract with its employee Bowes that stipulated that he would get six months notice or salary in lieu of notice if he was terminated without cause.  On termination, Bowes was told he would get six months salary continuance if he looked for other employment.  He was … Continue Reading

Responding to ESA Complaints

Posted in Employment Standards, Investigations

An employer should respond promptly, fully and carefully when it receives communications regarding possible violations of the Employment Standards Act (British Columbia).

In most cases, the complainant must use the “Self Help” process to try to resolve the matter directly with the employer. That process starts with a Request for Payment to the employer. The Request should not be ignored. The process gives the employer a chance to resolve problems without involvement of the Employment Standards Branch.

If the matter is not resolved, a complaint may be filed, and an officer of the Branch will contact the employer to investigate. … Continue Reading

Pay for No Work – Part II – Travel Time

Posted in Employment Standards, Wage and Hours

An earlier post looked at having to pay for on-call time under the Employment Standards Act (British Columbia). This post looks at travel time.

Travel time may be payable, depending on whether the travel is at the direction of the employer. Commuting from home to work and back again is generally not payable, even if using a company vehicle. But time spent going from home to work will be payable if the employee must bring employer-provided materials or equipment from home, move materials from one location to another, or pick up or deliver materials or equipment on the way to … Continue Reading

Restrictions on Withholding Pay

Posted in Benefits, Compensation, Pensions, Employment Standards, Wage and Hours

The Employment Standards Act (British Columbia) prohibits an employer from withholding or deducting any part of wages unless the employee has consented in writing. Problems frequently arise when employment terminates and the employer seeks to recover loans, advance payments (of wages or vacation pay) or other debts from the employee by way of deductions from the final pay.

Watch out for

  • poorly documented loan agreements or advances;
  • employees taking vacation before it is fully earned;
  • adjustments to commission earnings where the amount drawn exceeds the amount earned; and
  • accidental overpayments.

Possible Solutions

For any loan or advance, obtain a signed … Continue Reading

Pay for No Work – Part I – On-Call

Posted in Employment Standards, Wage and Hours

In addition to vacations and statutory holidays, there are two key times when an employee who is not performing any productive work may be entitled to be paid under the Employment Standards Act (British Columbia):

  • while on-call other than at home; and during travel time.

On-call employees are “at work” and are entitled to be paid regular wages as well as overtime for those hours of work. The Act provides that an employee is “at work” while on call at a location designated by the employer, unless that location is the “employee’s residence”, a term which is narrowly construed and … Continue Reading

Vacation Pay Trap

Posted in Employment Standards

Under the Employment Standards Act (British Columbia), vacation pay must be paid at the minimum rate of 4% or 6% (depending on the employee’s length of service). If the employee is entitled by contract to more than the minimum standard of vacation, the vacation pay is also increased at a rate of 2% per week.

Vacation pay must be calculated on total earnings, which includes all salary, commission, bonuses and other incentive earnings. Employers often breach the Act by paying base salary only during vacation.

Employers may also trip up when they purport to include vacation pay in a commission … Continue Reading

Commissioned Salespeople – Overtime/Statutory Holidays/Vacation

Posted in Employment Standards, Wage and Hours

The Employment Standards Act (British Columbia) starts from the presumption that employees who get some or all of their pay in commissions are entitled to be paid at least minimum wage for all hours worked, overtime for all overtime hours, and for statutory holidays.

In earlier posts, we reviewed the special rules and exemptions  and looked at minimum wage.

Unless one of the exemptions applies, commissioned employees are entitled to be paid overtime at premium rates in accordance with the Act for hours worked in excess of eight per day or 40 per week, and to be paid for … Continue Reading

Commissioned Salespeople – Minimum Wage

Posted in Employment Standards, Wage and Hours

The Employment Standards Act (British Columbia) starts from the presumption that employees who get some or all of their pay in commissions are entitled to be paid at least minimum wage for all hours worked, overtime for all overtime hours, and for statutory holidays. Subject to the exemptions and special rules mentioned in a previous post, here are rules on minimum wage for commissioned employees.

The Employment Standards Branch determines whether a commissioned employee has earned minimum wage by dividing the total earnings in a “pay period” by the number of hours worked. A “pay period” cannot be more … Continue Reading