Manitoba overhauls employment standards

New rules for overtime, termination notice, wage deductions and young workers

Last changed during the disco days of the 1970s, Manitoba’s Employment Standards Code has undergone a major revamp.

While the province had previously made some adjustments, in areas such as maternity and parental leave, “there was certainly a growing recognition that our legislation was becoming out of date,” said Dave Dyson, executive director of the employment standards division at Manitoba Labour and Immigration.

The changes, which come into effect on April 30, include new rules for termination notice, deductions from wages, leave of absence, overtime exemptions, holiday pay and young workers.

“Overall we felt satisfied, particularly with the process,” said Bill Gardner, a partner at Pitblado LLP in Winnipeg, chair of the Manitoba Employers’ Council and a member of the management caucus for the Labour Management Review Committee (LMRC). This last group, established in the 1960s, is a tri-partite committee that reviews major labour legislation with representation from labour, employers and government. “There are a number of changes employers had sought and are pleased to see.”

One such change concerns overtime exclusions, as the new code clarifies the differences for managers, other workers and incentive-based workers and takes into account whether employees substantially control their hours of work.

“It’s not something that exists in a number of other jurisdictions, to my knowledge, and, as such, it’s something that employers in Manitoba wanted and were pleased to have,” said Gardner.

Employers should also be happy to hear directors are not liable for wages in lieu of notice for individual or group terminations. Previously that didn’t exist and “was a considerable disincentive for people to take risks,” said Gardner.

In terms of termination notice, employers must now give workers one to eight weeks of notice, depending on length of employment (employees are required to provide one to two weeks of notice). Previously employers and workers only had to provide one pay period of notice.

The new rules also eliminate “no-notice period” options. When employers wish to terminate employees, they must give notice or pay wages equal to what would normally be earned during the notice. Also, an employer can no longer withhold the wages of a worker who does not provide required notice.

“Probably the most significant change is around termination of employment,” said Dyson. “The graduated notice has been adopted by just about every jurisdiction in Canada and (Manitoba) was the only province that allowed no-notice policies and one of a handful that allowed employers to withhold wages if an employee terminates without notice.”

As for wage deductions, employers can deduct wages for items so long as they provide a direct benefit to employees, but cannot deduct for items such as uniforms.

“From our perspective, it’s about marketing and brand awareness, so why make everybody pay for that?” said Dyson, who anticipates many questions from employers on this point.

“That’s something employers are going to have to adjust to,” said Gardner. “We weren’t necessarily thrilled with all the changes proposed but there’s a give and take. That was one of the things we felt it was appropriate to compromise on.”

This is also a health-and-safety issue in restaurants and gas stations, where employees are often charged for customers who leave without paying, which can act as a strong incentive for employees to do “something silly,” said Darlene Dziewit, president of the Manitoba Federation of Labour and a member of the LMRC.

Another important change has to do with leaves of absence, with three new unpaid days for illness or to attend to family responsibilities and three new unpaid bereavement days. This was another area where “agreement eluded us for a long time,” said Gardner, as smaller employers had concerns about meeting their obligations with absent staff.

Costs will also rise for employers with part-time employees as changes have been made to statutory holiday pay. Previously a worker had to work for 15 calendar days in a 30-day period before a holiday, but now “all part-time employees who work some amount will be able to participate on a pro-rata basis, and that’s obviously going to increase costs as well,” said Gardner. “But we considered it a reasonable change since most other jurisdictions approach the matter in that fashion.”

Young people are also better protected under the new code, with greater restrictions on work hours and workplaces for those under the age of 16 and 18.

Manitoba has also upped the fines for violations.

Full details of the changes can be found online at

To read the full story, login below.

Not a subscriber?

Start your subscription today!