On April 1, 2014, Bill C-45, also known as the Jobs and Growth Act, 2012, came into effect, amending parts of the Canada Labour Code (the “Code”).  The Code applies to all federally regulated employers, such as those involved in transportation, banking, and communications (television and radio).  The recent amendments introduce new procedures for complaints relating to unpaid wages and other alleged violations of the Code.  The changes also impose new time limits for complaints, payment of vacation pay and recovery of unpaid wages.

NEW COMPLAINT TIME LIMITS

Under the new amendments, complaints of unpaid wages and unpaid vacation pay will be limited to 6 months from the date the employer was required to pay those wages and vacation pay to the employee.  Any other complaints must be made within 6 months from the day the subject matter of the complaint arose.

Prior to these changes, the Code contained no timelines within which an employer was required to pay unpaid vacation pay or unpaid wages to an employee.  Employers were at risk of a wage order that could have extended back to an employee’s hire date. 

The changes will also limit the period of time covered by a payment order.  Payment orders will now apply to wages for a period of 12 months only.  This period starts on the day that the complaint is made, or, 12 months before the date employment was terminated.  The limitation on vacation pay is extended to 24 months from either the date of the complaint or termination, whichever is later.

WHAT THESE NEW CHANGES MEAN FOR EMPLOYERS

For federally regulated employers these new changes mean there is more certainty for complaints of unpaid wages and unpaid vacation pay.  Employers will no longer have to defend against dated wage complaints.

The addition of time limits for making complaints under the Code as well as the introduction of a fixed period of time for which a payment order for unpaid wages can be made will bring the Code in line with many other provincial jurisdictions that have similar protections.