Employment Law and Labour Considerations
Employment law in Canada exists to regulate all aspects of the relationship between employers and employees. Every province and the federal government have jurisdiction over employment and labour for specific types of employers, and each business will either be federally or provincially regulated. For example, certain industries that operate inter-provincially, like airlines, telecommunications and railways, are regulated by the federal government. Almost all the majority of other industries, which account for the majority of employers in Canada, fall under provincial jurisdiction.
For the labour costs of an employee in Canada, employers typically need to account for the hourly wage, vacation pay, statutory holidays, Canada Pension Plan and employment insurance. Additional costs that an employer can incur, that are also legislated, may also include such things as emergency leave and maternity leave.
Both provincial and federal employment standards exist for all jurisdictions. These standards govern mandatory minimum conditions such as minimum wage rates, method and frequency of payment, hours of work, overtime pay, vacation pay, statutory holidays, emergency leave, maternity and other leaves and requirements for notice of termination of employment or pay in lieu thereof.
There are also minimum standards imposed by both provincial and federal legislation that govern health and safety in the workplace. Health and safety legislation in every Canadian jurisdiction requires that employers provide workers with a safe workplace. Most provinces also impose a number of specific conditions, including requirements that employers prepare written health and safety policies and establish health and safety committees. In most jurisdictions, a worker has the right to refuse unsafe work. Health and safety legislation violations can result in significant fines or criminal charges for failing to comply with these standards.
In regards to termination of employment, unless an employer has just cause, it cannot terminate an employee’s employment without notice or severance pay in lieu thereof. All employment standards contain minimum periods for notices of termination, and severance pay, if applicable.
Human Rights / Non-Discrimination
Every provincial and federal jurisdiction has legislation designed to protect human rights. This legislation is aimed at preventing discrimination in the workplace. For each provincial jurisdiction, the relevant legislation should be referred to, since the legislation is mostly similar but not exactly the same in each province. Most provinces prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, ancestry, nationality, ethnic or place of origin, political belief, colour, gender expression and/or identity, religion or creed, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, family status, age, physical or mental disability, or criminal conviction for which a pardon has been granted. Sexual harassment is considered discrimination on the basis of sex. With respect to disability, employers have a duty to accommodate employees with a disability to the highest extent possible.