There have been several changes to the Canada Labour Code in recent months. Here’s an overview of what’s happened and what’s on the horizon for employers under federal labour jurisdiction.
New employer obligations
As of July 9, 2023, federally regulated employers must reimburse employees for reasonable work-related expenses. When determining whether an expense is related to work, employers must consider factors such as the impact on work performance, whether the expense was authorized in advance and whether the expense was incurred for a legitimate business purpose or was a condition of employment. Employers must repay the employee within 30 days of a claim’s submission.
Geneviève Beaudin, a partner at Lavery de Billy LLP, says the amendment is quite broad. “The requirement for employer authorization is one of the factors, but it should be the primary one. What happens, for example, if an employee buys something in good faith but it isn’t really needed?”
Also as of July 9, 2023, employers must provide employees with information respecting the parties’ rights and obligations within 30 days of the commencement of employment. Beaudin says this amendment is unnecessary. “It’s not really employers’ role to provide this information because it is readily available otherwise.”
Starting Oct. 9, 2023, employers must provide employees with a written employment statement within their first 30 days of employment. The statement must include the job title, a description of duties, the work address, the term of employment, the duration of any probationary period, a description of the necessary qualifications, the hours of work, overtime rules and wage rate. The obligation is an ongoing one.
“Any change that affects the statement must be provided within 30 days after the change comes into effect,” says Beaudin. “So this can be a lot of work for human resources, especially with regard to job descriptions and for employers with many employees.”
As of Dec. 15, 2023, federally regulated employers are required to provide free menstrual products to their employees and provide disposal containers at every workplace toilet. The obligation applies to all bathrooms regardless of assigned gender.
Mitch Frazer, a managing partner at Mintz Levin Cohn Ferris Glovsky and Popeo LLP, says the federal government saw these amendments as an opportunity to level the playing field in terms of gender equality. He believes provincial governments will eventually pass similar legislation.
“On the whole, it’s a good thing, because it’s a cost that only women bear. And federally regulated employers are usually larger undertakings for which these obligations are manageable.”
New terminations periods
On Feb. 1, 2024, amendments will take effect that increase the minimum notice of termination period for individuals who have at least three years of continuous service.
The minimum notice periods are graduated based on length of employment, commencing at three weeks for an employee with three years of service to a maximum of eight weeks for workers with eight or more years of service.
The amendments also require employers to provide a written statement of benefits to terminated employees. The statement must include the employee’s vacation benefits, wages, severance pay and any other benefits such as a car or phone allowance.
Kyle Lambert, an employment law partner at McMillan LLP, says employers will need to review their standard employment contract templates. “Employers must be careful that their agreements do not provide less than the amended minimum entitlements by, for example, limiting notice to the previous two-week minimum.
“Employers that don’t [review their templates] are risking that courts or adjudicators may find their contracts unenforceable and instead impose a common law reasonable notice period that can be far greater than the minimum notice under the code.”