Eight changes to the Canadian Labour Code you need to know about

Changes to the Canada Labour Code are coming into effect on September 1. These changes will impact nearly one million workers in federally regulated workplaces. First, check to make sure if you are covered by the Canada Labour Code. If you are a member of PSAC or any other union, you should also check your Collective Agreement or speak with your local president or union representative. Many of our collective agreements already provide better standards than these changes. In those cases, you may not experience any differences in working conditions.

While these changes apply to most workers in the impacted sectors, there will be some exemptions and modifications for different groups of workers. There will also be times when these provisions could be waived – usually due to an unforeseeable emergency situation

We’ve made recommendations to the government about when an exemption or an exception would be appropriate. We’ll let you know as more changes are made.

These changes will include:

ONE: The length of time that you are required to be in a job has been eliminated or reduced for many types of pay and leaves.

There is no longer a minimum service requirement for maternity, parental, critical illness, death or disappearance of a child. The service requirement has been reduced to 3 months for reservist leave, and 5 years for 3 weeks of paid vacation.

TWO: You can request a change in work schedule, location or other conditions.

After six consecutive months of continuous employment with an employer, employees will have the right to request in writing a change to the following terms and conditions of their employment:

  • The number of hours that you are required to work; 
  • the member’s work schedule;
  • the members’ location of work.

The employer can grant the request in whole or in part or may refuse the request. There can be no reprisals on the employee for making the request, regardless of whether it is granted or not.

THREE: Employers must give you at least 96 hours written notice of schedule and 24 hours written notice of shift change.

This provision may be waived if your employer could not have reasonably seen the need for change. You may have the right to refuse a shift if the appropriate notice was not provided.

Note that the Act allows for collective agreements to be negotiated below this standard.

FOUR: You have the right the refuse overtime in order to carry out family responsibilities.

Only, if you’ve already made reasonable attempts to make alternate arrangements that weren’t successful. Your employer can deny this if an urgent and unforeseeable situation arises.

Family responsibilities include the health or care of a family member or the education of a family member under the age of 18 years. It is our expectation that employer groups will be requesting exemptions for this provision for certain groups of employees. We will pass on information as we receive it. Certain categories of managers and professionals are already exempted.

FIVE: You now can take leave if you are a victim of family violence.

The new leave, for up to 10 days per calendar year, applies to an employee or the child of an employee who is the victim of family violence.

The first 5 days of this leave will be paid for employees with 3 months of service. This leave can be used for medical or counselling appointments, court dates, moving or other necessary actions. You may need to provide documentation of the need for this leave. 

We understand that providing written documentation may be a barrier to using this provision, or may make it difficult to do so, and we are working with the government to ensure that any requirements for documentation are minimal and do not put the victim at further risk. There are provisions in the Code that we are still hoping will be modified through regulation. We will update this information accordingly.

SIX: You might be able to take leave for traditional Indigenous practices.

This unpaid leave is for up to 5 days per calendar year.

While the legislation specifies hunting, fishing and harvesting, or “other prescribed practices”, we have asked the government to consider that there are many practices across many indigenous communities that make it difficult to prescribe them all. As the legislation currently reads, workers using this provision may be asked to provide proof of Aboriginal personhood. We have told the Labour Program that this is problematic and are waiting for a response.

SEVEN: You now have access to extended bereavement leave.

Two unpaid days of leave have been added to the already existing three paid days of leave.

EIGHT: You now have guaranteed medical leave, formerly called sick leave, up to 17 weeks without pay.

To be used for personal illness or injury, organ or tissue donation, medical appointments during working hours. There is no minimum length of service. The employer may request a medical certificate issued by a “health care practitioner” – health care practitioner means a person lawfully entitled, under the laws of a province, to provide health services in the place in which they provide those services.

1:An exemption means that a certain category of worker, defined in regulation, does not have access to the particular provision for which the exemption is granted. 

2: If an employer group is granted a modification for a certain provision for a certain category of worker, the provision will be changed, but not eliminated.

3: The legislation allows for exceptions to the rules in extreme circumstances when the employer has an emergency and could have not predicted the need to waive the provision.

4: Unforeseeable circumstances are those which a reasonable person in the same circumstance could not be expected to predict – e.g. a catastrophic fire. 


August 25, 2019