Here’s a brief overview of key updates and proposed changes to employment legislation for British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario and federally-regulated sectors.
Five Paid Sick Days
Effective January 1, 2022 employees covered by the Employment Standards Act in British Columbia are entitled to 5 paid sick days. This change was made by Bill 13, the Employment Standards Amendment Act, 2021 which was passed in April 2021.
After 90 consecutive days of employment an employee is entitled to paid leave for up to the number of days prescribed. That number is currently 5. Employees are still entitled to up to 3 days of unpaid leave for personal illness or injury. That means eligible employees get 5 paid days and 3 unpaid days of leave for illness or injury.
This is different from the COVID-19 Paid Sick-Leave Reimbursement Program. That program ended December 31, 2021 but employers have until January 17, 2022 to submit any remaining requests.
For more, you can check BC’s Paid Sick Leave page.
Return of COVID-19 Safety Plans
Last June, BC directed employers to implement Communicable Disease Prevention Plans rather than COVID-19-specific plans. As of January 7, 2022, BC has ordered employers to return to COVID-19 Safety Plans.
For more on how to make sure your re-introduced COVID-19 Safety Plan aligns with all the changes in guidance and orders, see WorkSafeBC.
Health & Safety Legislation
Changes to Alberta’s Occupational Health and Safety Act came into effect in December 2021. In case you missed them, here is a summary of a few key changes.
These updates were made by Bill 47, Ensuring Safety and Cutting Red Tape Act, 2020. Key changes include:
- Worker count to determine whether an employer must have a health and safety (H&S) committee or representative no longer includes volunteers (Part 2)
- Note: the thresholds of 20+ workers for a committee and 5-19 workers for a representative remain the same
- More flexibility for employers over content of training requirements for H&S committees or representatives, removing mandatory elements
- Dangerous work refusals – the terminology around the right to refuse dangerous work has changed from refusing a “dangerous condition at the work site” to refusing work if there is an “undue hazard” which means a “hazard that poses a serious and immediate threat to the health and safety of a person” (Part 3)
- Adding serious “illnesses” to injuries and incidents for reporting purposes (Part 7)
For more, you can watch Alberta’s Change highlights: the 2020 Occupational Health and Safety Act. It provides an overview of the updates that took effect in December 2021. You can also check out the Occupational Health and Safety Resource Portal and Alberta’s summary document, Changes to OHS Laws (December 2021).
Proposed Legislation for Paid Sick Days
Private Members’ Bill 606, The Saskatchewan Employment (Paid Sick Days) Amendment Act, 2021 proposes to give employees 10 paid sick days per year, or 14 paid sick days per year during a state of emergency related to a communicable disease.
The bill was introduced by an opposition party member on November 15, 2021 and has passed first reading. It must also pass second reading, third reading, and be given Royal Assent to be effective.
Amendments to The Saskatchewan Employment Act
There are a few changes to the Saskatchewan Employment Act that were effective January 1, 2022. These changes come from Bill 60, The Saskatchewan Employment Amendment Act, 2021 which was given Royal Assent in November, 2021.
The three key changes are:
- Definition of harassment expanded to specifically include conduct, comment, display, action or gesture by a person that is of a sexual nature and is unwelcome. Instead of listing grounds in the Human Rights Code, they are incorporated by reference along with physical size or weight.
- Note: Independent contractors, students and volunteers are included in the definition of workers who are protected from harassment
- COVID-19 liability protection for employers who made good faith efforts to act in accordance with specified COVID-19 regulations
- Supervisors can participate in a union, either with those they supervise or in a separate bargaining unit
No to Non-Competes and Yes to Disconnecting
Bill 27, the Working for Workers Act received Royal Assent in December 2021. It made several employment related amendments with different effective dates.
- Right to disconnect, effective January 1, 2022 – amends the Employment Standards Act, 2000
- Employers with 25 or more employees on January 1 of any year must, by March of that year, have a written policy on disconnecting from work.
- Note: employers who meet the 25+ threshold as of January 1, 2022 have until June 2, 2022 to have a written policy in place
- Note: With this new legislation, there is a lack of clarity around the requirements of this policy: there is no mandatory content, no indication of consequences for a breach, and no clarity as to whom it actually applies and under what circumstances.
For a sample “Right to Disconnect” policy, CCCC members can log in to The Green.
- Non-compete agreements are generally prohibited, effective October 25, 2021 – amends the Employment Standards Act, 2000
- Does not apply to agreements made before October 25, 2021
- It does not apply to executives (CEO, president, any chief executive position (operating, financial, information, legal, human resource, corporate development, etc.))
- It does not apply to the sale of a business
- Washroom access, not yet proclaimed – the Occupational Health and Safety Act now requires workplace owners to provide washroom access for delivery service providers when they are on site for a drop off or pickup, subject to reasonable limits
Proposed Legislation for Job Protection
Private Members’ Bill 6, Jobs and Jabs Act, 2021 proposes to amend the Employment Standards Act, 2000 to prohibit employers from intimidating, dismissing, placing on leave or penalizing an employee based on the employee’s vaccination status. It also requires an employee be reinstated if the employer has violated the prohibition.
The bill was introduced by an independent MPP on October 5, 2021 and has passed first reading. It must also pass second reading, third reading, and be given Royal Assent to be effective.
Proposed Legislation for Paid Sick Days
Private Members’ Bill 7, 10 Paid Sick Days for Ontario Workers Act, 2021 proposes to amend the Employment Standards Act, 2000 to provide up to 10 paid days of personal emergency leave for personal illness, injury or medical emergency for a worker or worker’s family member. It would also extend the existing infectious disease emergency leave from 3 paid days to 10.
This bill was introduced by an opposition MPP on October 5, 2021 and has passed first reading. It must also pass second reading, third reading, and be given Royal Assent to be effective.
Note: Ontario’s COVID-19 worker income benefit has been extended to July 31, 2022. This benefit requires employees to provide up to three days of paid infectious disease emergency leave for certain reasons related to COVID-19.
10 Paid Sick Days
Bill C-3, An Act to Amend the Criminal Code and the Canada Labour Code received Royal Assent in December 2021. It will amend the Canada Labour Code to provide that employees can earn and take up to 10 days of paid sick days per calendar year.
- After 30 days of continuous employment, the employee earns 3 paid sick days
- After 60 days of continuous employment, the employee will earn one paid sick day per month of continuous employment, up to a maximum of 10 per year
The amendments will come into force on a day set by order of the Governor in Council (cabinet, signed by the Governor General).
Noteworthy is provided for general information purposes and does not constitute legal or professional advice. Every organization’s circumstances are unique. Before acting on the basis of information contained in this blog, readers should consult with a qualified lawyer for advice specific to their situation.