Changes Coming to Canada Labour Code

Written on behalf of Peter McSherry
Background Shape/Fill/Blue Shaded

The Federal Government has introduced proposed amendments to the Canada Labour Code[1] which will be significant revisions to the present law. This law applies to all persons working in federally regulated businesses, such as public television broadcasting, radio, inter-provincial transit companies, railroads and all aspects of federal government.

Hours of Work

Employees will be entitled to an unpaid break of at least 30 minutes every five consecutive hours. Should the employee be asked to remain at the option of the employee during this break period, it must be a paid break.

Medical Breaks

The new law will allow for unpaid breaks for medical reasons or nursing mothers to express breast milk.

Equal Treatment

Similar to the Ontario legislation, the proposed amendments will create the concept of “equal treatment” for certain employees due to employment status.

Specifically, where workers are employed in the same industrial establishment, perform substantially the same type of work and the work is done under similar conditions, all such workers must be paid the same.

Where, however, the wage distinction is based on seniority, merit or production, the employer will have a defence. Like the Ontario law, the employer is not entitled to reduce wages to create the same wages for all.

This new provision will also apply to temporary help agencies.

Vacation Pay

Federally regulated employees are now entitled to two weeks paid vacation which increases to three weeks after six years of service.

The new law will provide for two weeks after one year of service, three weeks after five years of employment, and four weeks after 10 years of service.

General Holidays

At present a period of 30 days’ employment is required for a paid general holiday. This will be eliminated.

Group Terminations

The present law requires a mass termination[2] to require at least 16 weeks notice be give to the Minister of Labour and the persons effected. Severance pay must then be paid to the persons terminated.

The new law will allow the employer to pay the 16 weeks in wages as opposed to working notice and provide the Minister 48 hours notice.

Individual Terminations

The present status requires an employer to provide two weeks’ notice or two weeks’ pay after three months of employment.

The minimum notice period are to be revised in a manner similar to the Ontario statute. They will be as follows:

  1. Two weeks for employees who have completed three months of employment
    1. Three weeks for employees who have completed three years of employment
    2. Four weeks for employees who have completed four years of employment
    3. Five weeks for employees who have completed five years of employment
    4. Six weeks for employees who have completed six years of employment
    5. Seven weeks for employees who have completed seven years of employment
    6. Eight weeks for employees who have completed eight years of employment

Medical Leave

The new law will replace the concept of “sick leave” with “medical leave”. The amendments will allow for medical leave of up to 17 weeks as a result of personal illness or injury, organ or tissue donation or to attend medical appointments. Where the particular period of absence is three days or longer, a medical certificate will be required.

The employee must give the company written notice of four weeks, or as soon as possible, setting out the details and in turn, advise of any revisions. The employer must advise the employee of every employment promotional or training opportunity during the leave period.


There is a process within the Code to seek a relief when there has been a breach of the new law. Also, in perhaps more serious instances, such as a reprisal termination for seeking the protections of the Code, there may also be a remedy in the civil court for exceptional damages such as aggravated damages. These can be considerable.

Legal Advice

The law in this instance, like many other examples, tends to be in a taste of flux. It is important to stay updated on revisions as they occur.  Get advice and stay current.  Contact the offices of Guelph employment lawyer Peter McSherry. We can guide you through the issues, help you understand your rights, and defend your position. Contact us online or by phone at 519-821-5465 to schedule a consultation.





[1] On December 10, 2018, Bill C-86, Budget Implementation Act, 2018, No. 2, passed Third Reading in the Senate without amendment and is now awaiting Royal Assent.

[2] Defined as 50 or more persons terminated in a four week period