Summary of Proposed Changes to the B.C. Employment Standards Act

May 2019

B.C.’s Employment Standards Act is the law that sets minimum standards for workplaces in the province.  On April 29, 2019, Labour Minister Harry Bains announced plans to amend the Employment Standards Act. Highlights of the proposed changes are below:

Child employment protections

  • The legislation will raise the age a child may work from 12 to 16, and include restrictions on the type of hazardous work the child can be asked to perform.
  • The legislation will include exemptions that allow 14 year olds and 15 year olds to perform light work that is safe for their health and development (such as stocking shelves at a grocery store).
  • The legislation maintains existing regulations that allow children to work in recorded and live entertainment with parental consent.

Expanded job-protected leaves

  • Changes in the new legislation will provide up to 10 non-consecutive days of unpaid job-protected leaves for workers who are trying to escape from domestic violence, so they can look for a new home, go to medical appointments, etc.
  • Additionally, workers will have a second option that will see them receive up to 15 weeks of consecutive unpaid leave.
  • Government will carry out an engagement process to determine next steps in making improvements to leave for workers escaping domestic violence.
  • The legislation also creates a new unpaid job-protected leave for those caring for critically-ill family members that will align with federal employment insurance benefits — allowing workers to take up to 36 weeks to care for a critically ill child and up to 16 weeks to care for an adult.

Wage recovery

  • The legislation establishes a legal framework for regulating tips and tip pooling and protecting workers’ rights with respect to tips and gratuities. These rules will include:
    • a prohibition against employers withholding tips or other gratuities from workers, deducting amounts from them, or requiring them to be turned over to the employer;
    • allowing for tip pooling provided that the employer not share in the tip pool except when the employer performs the same work as workers who share in the pool.
  • The legislation also extends the period for which workers can recover owed wages from their employer from six months to 12 months — with the possibility of extending the period to 24 months under some circumstances, such as in cases involving wilful or severe contraventions of the Act.

Employees covered by collective agreements

  • Aspects of the Act currently have no application to employees covered by a collective agreement that includes terms addressing those same aspects (e.g. individual termination, vacation, hours of work and overtime). The legislation will reinstate previous rules under which minimum standards are replaced by collective agreement terms only when the collective agreement terms “meet or exceed” the comparable statutory minimum standards. The “meet or exceed” standard will not apply, however, to collective agreements in place at the time the legislation is enacted until those agreements are renewed after a period of collective bargaining.

Employment Standards Branch services

  • Under the new legislation, the “self-help kit”  required as a first step before filing a complaint is being eliminated – with immediate access to the Employment Standards Branch for complaints of contravention of the Act.
  • The legislation will also require the Director of the Employment Standards Branch to investigate all complaints accepted for resolution by the Branch.
  • The legislation will also “modernize” several other areas related to services provided by the Employment Standards Branch — including allowing the Branch to waive or raise penalties, requiring employers to inform workers of their rights and requiring licensing for temporary help agencies.
  • Government also plans non-legislative improvements to the Branch, including increased education and outreach, adding multilingual capacity and providing enhanced service delivery to workers and employers with visual and hearing impairments.