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Employment law changes will affect low-wage earners in B.C.

We have previously written about a number of significant amendments to the British Columbia Employment Standards Act which have come into effect this year. Many of these amendments will affect low-wage earners in BC. The amendment with the most direct effect is a change to the minimum wage rate, aimed at assisting in providing economic security for many thousands of low-wage workers. An immediate increase will be followed by further adjustments over the next two years.

Other significant changes were made that will affect certain groups of generally vulnerable, low-wage earning workers, including adjustments that raised the minimum age of child workers in hazardous jobs from 12 to 16. Furthermore, new licensing and registry requirements were put in place for recruiters of migrant workers. Advocates believe this will put a stop to abuse of employment standards by way of indebtedness to recruiters, limited benefits and low wages.

Another update to the statutory requirements is increased regulation to gratuities, as well as barring employers from withholding or deducting gratuities from wages, which is aimed at protecting wages of workers who depend on tips, such as hospitality and delivery workers. Workers who are victims of personal, relationship or intimate violence now have access to statutorily-protected leave from work.

Many employers and employees might have missed some of these changes. Employers and employees who have questions about this year's substantial revisions to the Employment Standards Act should consult with an experienced lawyer who is up to date with all aspects of British Columbia employment law. After assessing the circumstances of any dispute, a lawyer can suggest the best way to proceed, which might involve summary advice to arranging for mediation or litigation.

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