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.
It is almost one year since it became legal to use cannabis in Canada. In April 2019, a director of WorkSafeBC, Tom Brocklehurst, answered some of the questions that both employers and employees have about legal cannabis use in the workplace. One of the frequently asked questions addressed in his comments is whether there are new WorkSafeBC regulations in place to deal with recreational cannabis.
The #MeToo movement brought workplace harassment and bullying to the attention of many. Safety professionals across Canada, including British Columbia, have revealed that bullying and harassment remain some of the most significant workplace hazards. WorkSafeBC was the first to make policy changes in 2012, by which harassment in the workplace became a recognized occupational injury that could cause compensable mental trauma.
Employers in British Columbia are legally obligated to comply with employment standards and provide safe work environments. They must always honour workers' rights and protections. Following the disclosure of employment standards violations in a case in which a wealthy British Columbia family were found to have committed wage theft against 174 foreign workers, the Minister of Labour connected recent Employment Standards Act amendments with the prevalence of these kinds of complaints.
Employers in British Columbia can land in hot water if they publish discriminating advertisements for job vacancies. Under employment law, the human rights of applicants may not be violated by placing ads that restrict some people from applying. No such advertisement may include specifications, limitations or mention preferences as to the types of applicants who may apply.
Many British Columbia business owners choose to use the services of independent contractors instead of employees. There are benefits for both parties with such a work relationship, but there can also be severe consequences if the independent contractor arrangement is improperly executed.
Employers' legal obligations to their employees are not limited to meeting workplace standards under the applicable labour or employment legislation. Legal proceedings on the basis of human rights violations in the workplace have grown to comprise a significant part of employment law today. Federally regulated employers in British Columbia must comply with the Canada Human Rights Act, while provincially regulated employers must follow the BC Human Rights Code. Both of these pieces of legislation prohibit discrimination in employment on certain protected grounds.
Business owners in British Columbia will know that there are many intricacies when it comes to the rights of their employees. One issue that often creates tension between management and employees is when employees want to form or join a union and the employer does not approve.
In the age of easily accessed and readily shared information, it should come as no surprise that things that were once considered acceptable have started raising eyebrows. Before employees could access salary information on company review sites or co-workers could communicate via instant messaging service, salary information was far more discrete.
Employers in British Columbia face many challenges when it comes to the human rights of their employees. Under employment law, unanticipated claims may arise, and because they were not evident at first, employers can find themselves in a tight spot. One of the areas in which it is essential to comply with non-discrimination and human rights involve employment advertising.