Summer’s gone but new legislation lingers

B.C. a hotbed of legislation, but HR professionals from coast-to-coast have new laws to deal with

Employers in Western Canada have a number of legislative changes and proposals to absorb, especially in British Columbia where the Liberal government is particularly active, rewriting labour laws. Nationally, companies transferring employees internationally have new rules to follow.


The big HR news out of Ottawa is Immigration and Refugee Protection Act amendments that took effect June 28. The amendments include altering the point system under which skilled worker immigrants are evaluated for entry into Canada, the administrative structure for allowing temporary foreign workers entry, and employer obligations and requirements for sponsoring entry. For a detailed report on the HR implications of immigration act changes, click on the related articles link below.


On June 7, Alberta’s Superintendent of Financial Institutions introduced a new policy regarding Supplemental Employee Retirement Plans (SERPs). Policy Bulletin #22 sets out the procedure for using surplus from a registered pension plan to fund pensions in excess of the Income Tax Act maximums. The new policy took effect on June 13.

Alberta Finance released a consultation paper titled Employee Benefit Plans and the Insurance Act — A New Approach. The paper reviews issues related to employer-sponsored health and income continuance benefit plans regulated under the Insurance Act. The government will accept written comments from stakeholders on issues related to the current system and how it could be improved until Sept. 30.

A legislative committee has been formed to determine whether there’s a need to review Alberta’s Labour Relations Code. The committee has requested that key labour relations stakeholders and interested members of the public make written submissions concerning the present law. The minister of human resources and employment has stated that the government is only contemplating “limited changes.” The deadline for submissions is Sept. 15.

British Columbia

Bill 48, the Act to Amend the Employment Standards Act (ESA), introduced a number of key changes to B.C.’s employment standards regime. Employers will no longer require variances from the labour ministry to alter the 40-hour workweek. Instead, an “averaging agreement” can be negotiated directly with an employee. Education programs regarding rights and obligations under the ESA will be expanded and penalties for non-compliance will increase. To receive statutory holiday pay, employees must have worked 15 of the 30 days preceding the holiday. Under the old rules, an employee was eligible for holiday pay after being employed for 30 days.

The period for which employers must keep detailed employee records will be reduced from five to two years. Regarding “daily call-outs,” employers are required to provide a minimum two hours of pay if the employee is scheduled to work and is not required to work the shift. Employees scheduled for a shift of more than eight hours must be paid for four hours if they arrive at work and are sent home in less than four hours.

The Legislative Assembly passed Bill 48 on May 30, and much of it was effective on that date. Amendments concerning hours of work, averaging agreements and overtime are expected to come into force this fall. (For more information, see the related article link below.)

Bill 49, the Workers’ Compensation Amendment Act, 2002, received Royal Assent May 30 and took effect on June 30. The legislation makes changes to the act in the areas of compensation benefits, inflation adjustment, benefits for permanent disability (specifically integrating the Canada Pension Plan), disability benefits, mental stress claims and the governing structure of the Workers’ Compensation Board. Under the new system, workers injured on or after June 30, will receive tax-free wage-loss benefits at the rate of 90 per cent of their average net earnings, instead of the current 75 per cent of gross average earnings, up to a maximum rate.

On May 30, legislation was introduced to eliminate the B.C. Human Rights Commission. If Bill 53 is passed, the public will still be able to file complaints of discrimination with the Human Rights Tribunal but will no longer have the advantage of the advocacy provided by the commission. (For more information, see the related article link below.)

Bill 42, an Act to Amend the Labour Relations Code, passed May 28. The Labour Relations Board must now consider the economic effects its decisions may have on an organization and issue decisions accordingly. The bill also clarifies workers’ rights to be informed about issues before a vote for certification or decertification. Regulations establish the right of the employer and the union to communicate with employees in a fair and neutral setting, allowing equal opportunity for both parties to make presentations.


Bill 27 was introduced May 30, making changes to the Workplace Safety and Health Act in Manitoba. The bill creates new duties for employers and clarifies existing duties, which include: training workers, ensuring work is performed only by workers with appropriate training and experience or under close and competent supervision, implementing written safety and health programs for workplaces with 20 or more workers, ensuring that all work is sufficiently and competently supervised, and responding to recommendations of a committee or representative within 30 days. New duties for supervisors include the requirement to take reasonable precautions to protect the safety and health of workers and make staff aware of workplace risks. The bill also makes changes to the appeals process.

Manitoba also announced a review of the Pensions and Benefits Act, with an eye to giving retirees more flexibility with their retirement income. Consultations take place this fall.

Nova Scotia

Bill 9, An Act to Amend the Pension Benefits Act, received Royal Assent May 30 and comes into force Jan. 1, 2003. The bill, originally introduced in March 2001, will make the following changes to Nova Scotia’s Pension Benefits Act: require negotiated surplus settlement on plan wind up, remove the requirement for the owner of Life Income Funds to purchase a life annuity at age 80 and revise the formula for determining the maximum withdrawal from those funds. The act also contains numerous housekeeping and harmonization changes.


Ontario’s Human Rights Commission released a new policy on discrimination against older persons. The policy is an in-depth look at age discrimination as it relates to present protections in the Human Rights Code. Since the majority of current human rights complaints about age discrimination are in the area of employment, one of the main policies focuses on the older worker — including employment, hiring, retirement, pensions, benefits, seniority and accommodation.

The Ministry of Consumer and Business Services is still inviting the public to submit comments on its draft Privacy of Personal Information Act, 2002. (For more information see page 16. To view a copy of the proposed legislation visit


Bill 72, The Act to Amend the Workers’ Compensation Act, received Royal Assent July 10, but has not yet been proclaimed in force. The legislation proposes an increase in the maximum wage rate for compensation claims from $48,000 this year to $51,900 in 2003, $53,000 in 2004, and $55,000 in 2005. Burial expense awards would increase from $5,000 to $10,000. The minimum award for a permanent disabling injury would rise from $1,100 to $2,200, and the maximum from $22,600 to $45,200. These amendments follow the recent announcement of a $56 million operating loss for the Saskatchewan Workers’ Compensation Board in 2001.

Bill 7, modifies the Electronic Information and Documents Act, 2000 by adding a definition of “public body.” It gives authority to other acts and regulations controlling the authorization, regulation and use of electronic documents should a conflict arise. It clarifies consent issues with respect to the acceptance of electronic documents by a public body, conditions for making electronic documents available and consent issues for the exchange of electronic documents. Bill 7 came into force on June 20.

Marcia McDougall is a consultant with Hewitt Associates. She may be contacted at (416) 225-5001. She is grateful to Hewitt’s research consultants for their assistance in the preparation of this column.

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