BC Workplace Blog

Authored By Michelle Quinn & Colleagues

Main content

Highlight of the Amendments to the Employment Standards Act

This post will take less than 6 minutes to read.

Over the past year, the B.C. government introduced many changes that have affected both employees and employers, such as, the increases to minimum wage and amendments to the Employment Standards Act.

Minimum Wage Increase 

As of June 1, 2019, the hourly minimum wage in B.C increased from $12.65 to $13.85 and the liquor server wage increased from $11.40 to $12.70 per hour.

An additional wage increase of 9.5% was implemented for resident caretakers and live-in camp leaders.

Amendments to Employment Standards Act

Last year, the government introduced several amendments to the Employment Standards Act including changes to parental and maternal leave.

On May 30, 2019, the Employment Standards Amendment Act, 2019 was made law with additional amendments centered on the government’s four main priorities (as identified in the government’s media release earlier this year). The changes were to:

  • better protect children and youth from dangerous work;
  • make it easier for workers to get help when they feel their rights have been violated;
  • provide more job protection to people dealing with difficult personal circumstances; and
  • ensure people are paid the wages they are owed — and that those that violate the law do not have an unfair economic advantage.

Some of the important amendments include:

Increases to the age a child may work

  • The age a child may work has increased from 12 to 16 years of age.
  • Tougher restrictions for children, from 16 to 18 years of age, with regards to the type of hazardous work they can be asked to perform.
  • Exemptions allow children, 14 and 15 years of age, to perform light work that is safe for their health and development with the child’s parent or guardian’s written permission.

New job-protected leaves for critical illness, injury, and domestic violence

  • Under the Act, an employee is entitled to leave to provide care or support to a family member if a medical practitioner or nurse practitioner issues a certificate, which includes:
    • up to 36 weeks of unpaid leave to provide care or support to a family member who is under 19 years of age at the start of the leave; and
    • up to 16 weeks of unpaid leave to provide care or support to a family member who is 19 years of age or older.
  • An eligible person who experiences domestic violence can receive up to 10 non‑consecutive days of unpaid job-protected leave in each calendar year (to be taken in units of one or more days or in one continuous period) and up to 15 weeks of consecutive unpaid leave (to be taken as one unit of time, or more than one unit of time, with the employer’s consent.)
    • If requested by the employer, the employee must, as soon as practicable, provide the employer with reasonably sufficient proof in the circumstances that the employee is entitled to the leave.

Tips and gratuities cannot be withheld unless they fall under a specified exception

An employer must not, directly or indirectly, withhold, deduct or require payment of all or part of an employee’s wages.

The rules have a few exceptions, and they do not apply if:

  • An employer is authorized or required under law to withhold gratuities from an employee, make a deduction from an employee’s gratuities or require an employee to return or give the employee’s gratuities to the employer.
  • The law or court requires the employer to remit the gratuities to a third party and the employer fails to do so.
  • The employer collects and redistributes gratuities among some, or all of the employer’s employees. An employer must not redistribute gratuities among prescribed employees or classes of employees.
  • An employer who is a sole proprietor or a partner in a partnership, a director or shareholder of an employer, may share in gratuities that are redistributed if the employer regularly performs, to a substantial degree, the same work performed by some or all of the employees who share in the redistribution, or employees of other employers in the same industry who commonly receive or share in gratuities.

Certain credit obligations may be honoured

An employer may honour an employee’s written assignment of wages to meet any of the following credit obligations:

  • an advance of wages to the employee from the employer, including vacation pay;
  • an outstanding balance in respect of the purchase of goods or services from the employer by the employee; or
  • an outstanding balance in respect of the personal use of real and personal property of the employer by the employee.

Increases to extension of liability for wages and claims

The amendments have extended the liability for wages and claims from 6 months to 12 months.

Increases to record-keeping

The amendments have extended the length of time employers must keep certain records. An employer must now keep payroll records for four years (formerly, two years after the employment terminates) after the date on which the payroll records were created.

Similarly, the amendments require that an employer will be obliged to retain an averaging agreement for four years after the following, as applicable:

a) the expiry date set out in the averaging agreement, unless paragraph (b) applies;
b) the expiry date set out in one or more agreements to repeat the averaging agreement, whichever date is the latest.

The amendments also extend the length of time an employer must retain records of agreements to substitute another day for a statutory holiday from two years to four years.

Employers must inform their employees of their rights

An employer must make available or provide to each employee, in a form provided or approved by the director (see below), information about the rights of the employee under the Employment Standards Act.

The approved information document that can be provided to employees and shared in the workplace can be in the poster format and/or information sheet format:

There are several additional amendments to the Employment Standards Act that may be relevant depending on your situation.  If you have any questions about the Act, please feel free to reach out to me directly (esadowski@rbs.ca) or to one of the members of our Employment & Human Rights team.