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What are the requirements relating to advertising open positions?

Job advertisements should comply with human rights legislation and generally should not contain statements, qualifications or references that directly or indirectly relate to protected grounds.

Background checks

What can employers do with regard to background checks and inquiries?

(a) Criminal records and arrests

With consent, employers can perform background checks on employees’ criminal records. However, employers may be vulnerable to challenges if a candidate is denied a job because of a criminal record which is unrelated to the position for which he or she applied.

(b) Medical history

Generally, medical history should not be considered in the hiring process, except where there is a genuine occupational requirement. Pre-employment medical testing or medical history can be requested after a conditional offer of employment has been extended, if it can be shown that this information is relevant to the position.

(c) Drug screening

Drug and alcohol testing is a contentious issue in Canada as addiction is classed as a disability under human rights law and it has been held that drug testing does not determine whether an employee is impaired while at work. This has led to conflicting case law in Canada. The federal and Ontario approach is that, in general terms, testing is inherently discriminatory under human rights law, and is a significant intrusion on an employee’s privacy rights.

In British Columbia, pre-employment drug testing may be justified for safety-sensitive positions if the candidate is made aware of the testing and is subject to a strict testing regime. This is because the British Columbia courts and tribunals have found that health and safety can be paramount to human rights issues. However, if a candidate tests positive and subsequently proves to be a dependency, the employer may have a duty to accommodate him or her.

Further, when employees must work part of the time in the United States (eg, inter-provincial truckers) and drug screening is a requirement under US state law, that requirement may be found to support an employer’s position that drug testing is a genuine occupational requirement that should be permitted, notwithstanding general human rights and privacy concerns.

(d) Credit checks

The British Columbia privacy commissioner has ruled that employers are permitted to collect only personal information that is specific to the requirements of the position from prospective employees. Credit checks for employees as part of a routine background check process are not recommended.

Federally regulated employers are governed by the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act and are permitted to request credit checks only where it is reasonable to do so.

(e) Immigration status

Employers may require proof of legal ability to work in Canada as a condition of employment, but are prohibited under human rights legislation from inquiring into a prospective employee’s ancestry, citizenship or national or ethnic origin.

(f) Social media

Social media checks during the pre-hiring stage increase the risk of a discrimination complaint, as a candidate’s social media profile may disclose information concerning a protected ground under human rights legislation. Further, social media checks can violate privacy legislation due to a collection of non-work related personal information and the personal information of third parties.

(g) Other


Wage and hour


What are the main sources of wage and hour laws in your state?

The British Columbia Employment Standards Act is the main source of wage and hour law.

For federally regulated businesses, Part III of the Canada Labour Code applies. 

What is the minimum hourly wage?

The minimum hourly wage in British Columbia is C$14.

What are the rules applicable to final pay and deductions from wages?

Provincial rules

Deductions from wages can be made where authorised by law or where an employee has provided written authorisation. The amount to be deducted must be set out in the authorisation or readily determinable by way of a formula. No amounts may be deducted in respect of an employer’s business costs, such as losses due to faulty work, missing cash or property loss.

Federal rules Employers cannot make deductions from wages or other amounts due to an employee except under the following instances:

  • payments authorised by a federal or provincial act or regulation;
  • deductions authorised by a court order, a collective agreement or other document signed by a trade union on behalf of an employee;
  • deductions authorised by the employee in writing; and
  • overpayments of wages by the employer.

Hours and overtime

What are the requirements for meal and rest breaks?

Provincial rules

A 30-minute unpaid rest period must be provided after five hours of work.

Federal rules There are no prescribed rest periods for federally regulated employees. However, most employers follow provincial guidelines for safety and employee relations purposes.

What are the maximum hour rules?

Provincial rules

Employees cannot work more than 12 hours per day; special rules exist for certain industries (eg, high-tech companies employing high-tech professionals).

Federal rules Employees cannot work more than 48 hours per week; special rules exist for certain industries (eg, trucking, shipping and railways).

How should overtime be calculated?

Provincial rules

Overtime is calculated as one-and-a-half times the employee’s regular rate for all hours worked in excess of eight hours per day and 40 hours per week (whichever is greater) and two times the employee’s regular rate for all hours worked in excess of 12 hours per day; special rules exist for certain industries.

Federal rules Overtime is calculated as one-and-a-half times the employee’s regular rate for all hours worked in excess of eight hours per day or 40 hours per week (whichever is greater); special rules exist for certain industries.

What exemptions are there from overtime?

Provincial rules

The terms 'exempt' and 'non-exempt' are not used in Canada to differentiate between employees. In British Columbia, employee entitlements to certain provisions under the Employment Standards Act (including hours of work and overtime) are generally determined based on whether the employee is considered to be in a managerial or supervisory role. However, special exemptions exist for some types of commissioned salesperson, professional (eg, lawyers, engineers, dentists and architects) and high-tech professional employed by a high-tech company.

The main managerial and supervisory exemption applies only if the employee performs non-managerial work incidentally. Below are some general factors that are considered in British Columbia when assessing whether an employee’s work is managerial or supervisory (using a retail store environment as an example):

  • What percentage of time do managers perform the same work as sales associates?
  • How frequently do managers perform non-managerial work (eg, do they perform the work of a sales associate every day or once a week)?
  • Do managers perform non-managerial work on a scheduled basis (eg, during lunch)?
  • Do managers have no alternative but to perform non-managerial work?
  • Do managers perform non-managerial work only for unforeseen reasons (eg, if sales associate calls in sick or there is an unexpected rush of customers)?
  • Do managers’ performance appraisals include an evaluation of non-managerial work?
  • Are managers performing their managerial role at the same time that they perform non-managerial work (eg, the store manager may be on the floor for supervisory purposes, but will also assist customers if necessary)?

Federal rules The Canada Labour Code states that the standard hours of work and overtime do not apply to managers or superintendents, exercise management functions or members of the architectural, dental, engineering, legal or medical professions. The test for the managerial exemption is similar under federal law.

Record keeping

What payroll and payment records must be maintained?

Type of information

British Columbia retention period

Employee’s name, address and the date on which he or she began employment

Two years after employment ends

Employee’s date of birth

Two years after employment ends

Number of hours that the employee worked each day and each week, regardless of how the employee is paid

Two years after employment ends

Information contained in each written statement given to the employee in relation to wages, wages on termination and vacation pay

Two years after employment ends

Every agreement made permitting the employee to work excess hours

Two years after employment ends

Every overtime averaging agreement that the employer has made with the employee

Two years after employment ends

Holiday time and holiday pay records, including the amount of:

  • holiday time earned but not taken since the start of employment (if any);
  • holiday time earned in the year;
  • holiday time taken in the year;
  • holiday time earned but not taken at the end of the year;
  • holiday pay paid out during the year (subject to certain exceptions); and
  • wages on which vacation pay was calculated and the applicable time period (subject to certain exceptions).

Two years after employment ends

There may be different record-keeping considerations for federally regulated businesses.

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