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Government announces proposed amendments to the BC Employment Standards Act

On April 29, 2019, BC’s Labour Minister Harry Bains tabled a new bill that proposes to revamp parts of the Employment Standards Act. Bains described the bill as focusing on four main areas of reform:

  • Protecting child workers by having laws that comply with the international standards for child labour;
  • Modernizing the employment standards system with a more effective compliance and enforcement program;
  • Establishing new, unpaid, job-protected leave for employees experiencing domestic violence and for employees who need to care for a critically ill child or adult family member; and
  • Strengthening wage recovery for workers.

The proposed amendments follow a report released in late 2018 by the British Columbia Law Institute making 71 recommendations for changes to the Act. A copy of that report is available here.

Several of the key changes proposed in the new bill include:

  • Employing children: Children under the age of 14 will not be permitted to work, except with permission from the Director of Employment Standards. Children aged 14 or 15 will be permitted to perform “light work”, provided that they have written permission from their parent or guardian.
  • Retaining employment records: Employers will be required to retain payroll records for 4 years after an employment terminates (increased from 2 years).
  • Tip pooling: Employers will be prevented from retaining a portion of employees’ tips, unless the employer performs a substantial portion of the work.
  • Unpaid leave while caring for critically family members: Employers will be required to allow temporary unpaid leaves of absence to employees needing time off to care for critically ill family members. Employees will be required to provide medical certificates to support the absences.
  • Unpaid leave for victims of domestic abuse: Employers will be required to provide domestic abuse victims – or in some cases the parents and guardians of domestic abuse victims – with temporary unpaid leaves of absence. This will allow employees with time away from work to seek medical attention, obtain support services, relocate, or get legal assistance.
  • Informing employees of their rights: Employers will be required to make available or provide information to employees about their rights under the Employment Standards Act.
  • Extended recovery period: Employees will be permitted to claim up to 12 months of unpaid wages (increased from 6 months). In some circumstances (yet to be clarified) this time limit may be increased to 24 months.
  • Penalties to employers: In some instances, the Director of Employment Standards will have the discretion to waive monetary penalties against employers who breach the Act.

The full text of the bill, as presented on April 29, can be read here.