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Federal Labour and Employment Legislation

By Kate Bresner, Pallett Valo LLP

Major changes to the Canada Labour Code (“CLC”), legislation affecting federally regulated employers, came into force on 01 September 2019. Federally regulated employers primarily include those conducting business in banking, federal Crown corporations, many First Nations activities, and those operating in industries that cross provincial and/or national borders (such as railways; road, marine, and air transport; telephone and cable systems; and radio and television broadcasting). Further reforms are expected to continue to be implemented gradually throughout the rest of the year and 2020.

The following provides a general overview of the provisions that were amended as of 01 September 2019:

Hours of Work

  • Breaks: Employees are entitled to a 30-minute unpaid break for every five consecutive hours of work; if the employee is required to be available during the break, it must be paid (subject to certain exceptions).
  • Employees are entitled to take unpaid breaks that are necessary for nursing (or to express milk), or for medical reasons.
  • Hours of Work: Employees are entitled to a rest period of at least eight hours between work periods/shifts, except in the case of emergency.

Flexible Work Arrangements

After six consecutive months of continuous employment, employees may make a written request to change their number of work hours, schedule, location of work, and other terms and conditions, to which employers must respond within 30 days.

Modified Work Schedules

Modified work schedules may be established, modified, or cancelled, where hours of work exceed the standard hours of work set by the CLC.

Notice of Schedule

Employers must provide a minimum of 96 hours’ written notice before implementing a work schedule; where there is less than 96 hours’ notice, an employee has the right to refuse the shift, subject to certain exceptions.

Notice of Shift Change

Employers must provide at least 24 hours’ written notice of an employee’s shift change, subject to certain exceptions.


  • Right to Refuse: Employees have a right to refuse overtime if they must fulfil a family responsibility, subject to certain conditions and exceptions.
  • Time Off in Lieu: Employers and employees may agree in writing that an employee may take time off rather than receive pay for overtime hours worked.

Leaves of Absence

  • Bereavement: Increased from three days to five days.
  • Court or Jury Duty: New unpaid leave of indefinite duration to attend court as a witness or juror, or to participate in jury selection.
  • Leave to Care for a Critically Ill Child or Adult, Leave for Death or Disappearance of a Child, Maternity and Parental Leave: Employees are no longer required to complete six consecutive months of continuous employment in order to be entitled to these leaves of absence.
  • Medical Leave: Sick leave provisions are replaced by this leave, which allows for a duration of up to 17 weeks.
  • Personal Leave: Family Responsibility Leave provisions are replaced by this leave, which allows for a duration of up to five days, per calendar year, with the first three days paid.
  • Leave for Traditional Aboriginal Practices: A new leave entitlement for up to five unpaid days in each calendar year for Aboriginal employees.
  • Victims of Family Violence: The first five days are paid.

Vacation and Holiday Pay

  • Holiday Pay: The exclusion for general holiday pay for holidays occurring within the first 30 days of employee is removed; holiday pay must equal at least 1/20 of the employee’s wages (excluding overtime) earned in the four-week period immediately preceding the holiday week.
  • Substitution: General holidays may be substituted for any other day, subject to certain conditions, and whether the employees are subject to a collective agreement.
  • Vacation Pay: Entitlements are increased for employees with the following lengths of continuous employment: 1 year: 2 weeks or 4%; 5 years: 3 weeks or 6%; 10 years: 4 weeks or 8%.

Continuity of Employment

Employment in the case of a work, undertaking, or business will be deemed continuous in prescribed circumstances, such as where there is a transfer between two federally regulated employers, where a work, undertaking, or business becomes federally regulated, or through certain re-tendering processes, subject to certain conditions.

These sweeping changes represent the most drastic overhaul to the federal labour and employment system in decades and are decidedly preferential to employees. Further proposed future amendments to the CLC include changes to the termination of employment, equal pay, and compliance and enforcement provisions, as well as the introduction of regulations addressing workplace harassment and violence prevention, and a new Pay Equity Act.

Earlier this year, Employment and Social Development Canada announced that it established an independent expert panel to study, consult, and bring forward recommendations to the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour, on the issues of federal minimum wage, labour standards protections for non-standard workers, the “right to disconnect” outside of work hours, collective voice for non-unionised workers, and access and portability of benefits. Pending the recommendations of the expert panel, there may be even more reforms to come soon.

More detailed information can be found here:

Kate Bresner

Kate Bresner

GGI member firm
Pallett Valo LLP
Law Firm Services
Mississauga (Greater Toronto), Canada
T: +1 905 273 33 00
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Kate Bresner has experience advising on a broad range of employment and labour law issues, including compliance with Ontario workplace legislation such as the Employment Standards Act, Human Rights Code, Labour Relations Act, and Occupational Health and Safety Act.

Published: GGI Insider, No. 104, November 2019 l Photo: Curioso Photography -

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