The BC government has unveiled plans to significantly change the Employment Standards Act (“ESA”), which prescribes the minimum labour standards for regulated workplaces in BC. Bill 8 introduces amendments to a number of the ESA’s provisions and received First Reading on April 29, 2019.

Proposed changes are largely to the benefit of employees. Highlights of the amendments, which will directly impact employers, include the following:

  • The director can now at any time and for any reason conduct an investigation to ensure compliance with the ESA;
  • Obligations on the employer to provide to each employee information about their rights under the ESA;
  • Collective agreement provisions must meet the minimum requirements of the ESA;
  • Recovery of unpaid wages now include gratuities, which are currently expressly excluded from the definition of “wages”;
  • New rules in regards to when gratuities can be redistributed amongst employees and owners;
  • Expanding the definition of “spouse” to include individuals living in marriage-like relationship;
  • Employers cannot employ children under the age of 14 without the director’s permission. The current minimum age is 12;
  • Employers cannot employ children under the age of 16 in a workplace deemed as a “hazardous industry”;
  • If requested by an employee, employers must provide unpaid leave for victims of domestic violence and for circumstances where an employee’s family member is suffering from a critical illness or injury;
  • The amendments extend the recovery period for which workers can recover owed wages from their employer from six months to 12 months, and in certain circumstances, that have yet to be determined, extend the recovery period from 12 months to 24 months.

These are just some of the anticipated amendments to the ESA. You may find the Provincial Government’s full press release here.