Know Your Rights: Who Makes the Rules

Who makes the rules at work, your boss? Partly. But they have to answer to someone too. In Canada workers have rights established by both the federal and provincial governments. These rights have been established over a long period of time with amendments and updates. Did you know it used to be a crime to be a member of a union, or to go on strike? These laws help protect both employees and employers.

Federal Legislation

The Canadian Human Rights Act prevents the discrimination in employment and services under the jurisdiction of the federal government. This covers individuals when they are employed or receive services from the federal government. Some of these areas are banks, air transportation, telephone and internet systems, radio and television broadcasting and private businesses necessary for the operation of the federal government.

There are similar laws in place for federally contracted workers and other federally regulated employers. These employers include around 500 privet-sector companies, 30 Crown corporations (corporations owned by federal or provincial governments) and a few other organizations.

The Employment Equity Act was established to provide equal employment opportunities to four groups: women, Aboriginal peoples, people with disabilities, LGBTQ peoples and visible minorities.

The Canada Labour Code covers the same federally regulated industries listed above but is more specifically directed at business practices such as

  • industrial relations
  • unions
  • workplace health and safety
  • public holidays
  • annual vacations
  • working hours
  • layoffs
  • minimum wage
  • severance pay
  • overtime

Provincial Legislation

Now what if the organization you work for doesn’t fall under the ones listed above, who protects you? That would be the provincial government. Every province has rules covering the same categories as the Canadian Labour Code, but they all differ. This is why the minimum wage is the lowest in Saskatchewan at $11.06 an hour, to the highest in Alberta at $15 an hour. Alberta and Prince Edward Island provide the most public holidays with 12 each and Saskatchewan beats the 10 vacation days most Canadians get with an extra five. That’s one extra working week!

Unfortunately, there are businesses out there who try to get away with breaking these rules. In 2016 it was reported that the Ontario Ministry of Labour conducts surprise inspections of companies in the province and since 2012 has consistently found the rate of noncompliance (those breaking the rules) to run between 70 and 80 percent! Those caught just pay tickets of a couple hundreds of dollars, making it profitable for some organizations to just ignore the rules. Most provinces rely on complaints to enforce the laws making it important to know your rights and report when they’ve been violated.

This is a guide to the basics of Canadian employment rights. For details of the federal legislation mentioned see here. For details on provincial regulation see here. Want to know more? We’ll be covering more on the topic soon, so follow us on social media!

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