Overview of Employee Rights and Duties in Canada

As an employee, staying informed about your rights and duties is critical.  Whether you are working as a full-time or part-time employee, knowing your legal rights and obligations is critical.  Along with being familiar with your rights, it is equally important to abide by the duties found in legislation and common law.

The B.C. Human Rights Code outlines the fundamental human rights of the people of Canada. Along with being thorough with these codes, it is important to be familiar with specific employee codes, to ward off any discrimination in the workplace.

The B.C. Employment Standards Act sets out the minimum entitlements for all employees in B.C. who are employed by a provincially regulated employer.  The entitlements under the ESA relate to minimum wage requirements, vacation pay, special leave entitlements, overtime pay requirements, amongst many others.

Employee Rights in Canada

  • Workplace Discrimination and Harassment
  • Minimum Wage Standards
  • Special Leave Permits
  • Annual Vacation Code
  • Labour Relations Code
  • Workplace Health and Safety

Workplace Discrimination & Harassment

Denial of a benefit or being oppressed because of a personal characteristic falls under workplace discrimination and is generally governed by human rights legislation. Whether you are working in a corporate office, store or restaurant, or dwelling as a tenant, any discrimination on the grounds of race, colour, religion, family status, physical or mental disability, sex, and marital status is strictly prohibited.

According to the B.C. Human Rights Code, any mental, physical, sexual, verbal or non-verbal harassment in the course of employment is prohibited. If you are facing any such discrimination or harassment at your workplace, your recourse is to file a complaint with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal.

Minimum Wage Standards

Each and every Canadian citizen is entitled to equal pay for work.  As an employee, you must receive the minimum wage as prescribed by the Employment Standards Act.  Wages earned in the pay period should be given to the employee(without any direct or indirect deductions) well in time. However, exceptions exist in the case of overtime wages and vacation pay. You are permitted to get your dues cleared within 48 hours of termination by the employer and 6 days if the employee terminates the employment.

Special Leave Permits

Under the Employment Standards Act, pregnant working women are entitled up to 17 consecutive weeks of unpaid leave. The law also grants employees, to take leave up to 6 weeks on the account of childbirth or termination of pregnancy.

Under the compassionate care leave, you can request a leave up to 8 weeks, to provide care or support to a family member (if dealing with a serious medical condition and with a significant risk of death within 26 weeks). The government acknowledges the importance of family responsibilities and entitles up to 5 days of unpaid leave every year and 3 days in case of death of an immediate family member.

Annual Vacation Code

Apart from the statutory holidays, you are entitled to a yearly vacation, for at least 2 weeks, after 12 successive months of employment, and 3 weeks, in case of 5 consecutive years of employment. During your vacation, you possess the right to get a vacation pay of 4 percent of the total wages during the year of service (after 5 calendar days of employment), and 6 percent, after 5 consecutive years of employment. The vacation cannot be adjusted or denied in the name of bonus or sick pay.

Labour Relations Code

Under the Labour Relations Code, every Canadian citizen is allowed to join a union. As a member of the Labour Union, you have full freedom to express your views on matters relating to an employer, a trade union or the representation of employees by a trade union. If you plan to join or form your union, it is crucial to accord with all the formalities and certification. In case of situations like suspension, limitation of your rights, threatening a penalty, promising a benefit to force an employee to refrain from joining an association, you can take stern action against the employer.

Workplace Health and Safety

The government provides complete protection against health and safety hazards in the workplace. The law gives you the right to know and acquire information on the possible workplace hazards. It also permits access to government or employer reports, related to health and safety of employees through committees and various representatives.

Along with the right to know, you are entitled to refuse to any work that possesses a risk to you or your co-worker’s life. In case of any accidents at the workplace, the law also provides compensation benefits to the employees.

Employee Duties in Canada

For employees who are employed by a federally regulated employer, the Canada Labour Code set out down several provisions for employees to ensure complete protection of their health and safety at the workplace. Some of the key duties of the employees are as follows:

  • Follow procedures and instructions concerning the health and safety of the employees.
  • Cooperate with people carrying out a function required by the code, as well as policy, health and safety representatives and workplace committees.
  • Make careful use of all safety materials, equipment, devices and clothing that are provided by the employer and are intended to protect the employees.
  • Promptly report any incident or circumstance that is likely to be hazardous to the employees or any other person in the workplace.
  • Report to the employer, in the case of occupational diseases, accidents or any dangerous occurrences that have caused injury to the employee or any other person.