Amendments affect employee pay, work schedules, vacations, leaves
Employers with Quebec payrolls need to prepare for widespread changes to the province’s labour standards rules.
In June, Quebec’s National Assembly passed Bill 176, An Act to amend the Act respecting labour standards and other legislative provisions to facilitate family-work balance.
The bill changes a number of labour standards requirements, including those affecting employee pay, work schedules, vacation, leaves of absence, differences in treatment, and temporary workers.
While some of the amendments took effect on June 12, others will come into force on Jan. 1, 2019.
As of June 12, the following new requirements apply:
Paying employees: The act now specifies that employers may pay employees by cash, cheque, or bank transfer. Previously, bank transfer was only allowed if the employer had the employee’s written agreement or it was part of a collective agreement or decree.
Work schedules: Employers and employees may, under certain conditions, agree to stagger working hours other than on a weekly basis without needing authorization from the Commission des normes, de l’équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail (CNESST).
The conditions require that agreements be in writing and that they stagger the work hours over a period of no more than four weeks. They also require that a workweek not exceed the standard provided for in the act or its regulations by more than 10 hours, and that the employer or the employee is able to cancel the agreement by providing at least two weeks’ notice before the expected end of the staggering period.
Vacation: Employers now have the option to pay vacation pay in a lump sum before an employee’s vacation or in the way they pay the employee’s regular wages. Seasonal/intermittent employers may add the vacation pay to their employees’ wages.
Statutory holidays: If a holiday does not coincide with an employee’s regular work schedule, the act now requires employers to either pay the employee statutory holiday pay for the day or give the employee another day off with statutory holiday pay at a mutually agreed upon time or determined by a collective agreement or decree.
Differences in treatment: For pension plans and other employee benefits, employers are now prohibited from treating employees differently based solely on their date of hire if the workers do the same tasks in the same establishment. This does not apply to distinctions that were in place before June 12.
Leaves of absence: Among the biggest changes in the bill were amendments affecting leaves of absence provisions. Beginning June 12, the following new rules apply:
•Employees may take up to 26 weeks off work each year if they are the victims of domestic or sexual violence.
•Employees may take up to 104 weeks off work, without pay, if their child under age 18 dies of any cause.
•A leave for an employee whose child has disappeared because of a suspected crime is now a maximum of 104 weeks, up from 52 weeks.
•The amount of leave employees may take if their spouse or adult child commits suicide is now 104 weeks, up from 52 weeks. Employees may also now take the leave for their parents.
•Employees may take a maximum of 16 weeks — up from 12 weeks — off each year to care for a relative or another person for whom they are the caregiver (as verified by a professional in the health and social services sector) if the person has a serious illness or accident. For a child under age 18, the maximum leave is 36 weeks.
•Employees may take up to 27 weeks off each year to care for a relative or person for whom they are a caregiver (as verified by a professional in the health and social services sector) who has a serious and potentially life-threatening illness. For their child under 18, the period of leave remains 104 weeks.
Beginning Jan. 1, 2019, the following new rules will apply:
Work schedules: Employees will have the right to refuse to work more than two hours (down from four) a day beyond their usual hours or more than 14 hours per 24-hour period, whichever is shorter. Employees with flexible or non-continuous daily working hours will continue to have the right to refuse to work more than 12 hours per 24-hour period.
In addition, with some exceptions, employees will have the right to refuse to work if their employer does not give them at least five days’ advance notice.
Vacation: Employees will be entitled to three weeks’ vacation after three years of service instead of five years.
Differences in treatment: Employers will be prohibited from paying employees a lower wage rate, reducing their vacation time, or changing the way they calculate their vacation pay compared to other employees doing the same tasks in the same workplace solely because of the employees’ employment status, particularly that they work part-time. An exception that now applies for employees earning more than double the minimum wage rate will be eliminated.
Leaves of absence
•Employers will have to pay employees with at least three months of service for the first two days they take off each year for the 26-week leave for sickness, accidents, organ/tissue donations, crimes, and domestic or sexual violence.
•Employers will also have to pay employees with at least three months of service for the first two days they take off each year for the 10-day family responsibility leave allowed under the act.
•Pay for the two days must be at least 1/20th of the wages the employee earned in the four full workweeks before the day off, excluding overtime pay. For commission-based employees, it will be at least 1/60th of the wages earned in the 12 full workweeks before the day off.
•Employees will no longer be required to complete three months of employment with their employer to be eligible for a number of leaves, including those for sickness, accident, organ/tissue donation, criminal offences, domestic or sexual violence, child disappearance or death, and family illness or injuries.
•Employees will no longer have to be employed for at least 60 days to be paid for the first two days of the five days of leave they may take when their child is born or adopted or when a pregnancy terminates in or after the 20th week of pregnancy.
•Paid time off for bereavement leave will increase from one day to two days if the leave is for the death or funeral of the employee’s spouse, child (including the child of the employee’s spouse), parents, or siblings. Employees will also be entitled to three days off without pay.
Tips: The requirement to include tips in employees’ wages when calculating certain payments will be expanded to encompass calculations for pay in lieu of notice in a group termination and for the two new paid days of leave allowed.
The bill also included amendments that will require employers, as of Jan. 1, 2019, to implement a policy to deal with psychological harassment complaints, including sexual harassment, and to make it available to employees.
There are also amendments that will affect placement agencies, including prohibiting them from paying employees working at a client company less than the client’s employees doing the same work in the same establishment.
Other amendments will create new obligations for employers hiring temporary foreign workers, including requiring them to immediately inform the CNESST of the date workers arrive and the term of the work contract. If employment ends before the contract end date, the employer will have to notify the CNESST and let them know why.
Changes affecting placement agencies and temporary foreign workers will take effect once new regulations under the act come into force.
For more details on all of the amendments in the bill, refer to the CNESST’s website at www.cnt.gouv.qc.ca/en/home/index.html.