Until March 31, the provincial government is seeking feedback about employment standards. The consultation focuses on six areas: increasing protection of child workers, transforming the Employment Standards Branch, supporting families through difficult times with job-protected leaves of absence, strengthening workers’ ability to recover wages/monies owed, clarifying hours of work and overtime standards, and improving fairness for terminated workers.
The Living Wage for Families Campaign submitted recommendations that focus on improving the lives of workers. As a project of First Call: BC Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition and a member of the BC Employment Standards Coalition, our submission highlights the important work these groups and our labour allies have been doing to advocate for greater worker protections since the provincial government made sweeping changes to employment standards beginning in 2001.
Our recommendations are:
Theme 1 – Increasing protection of child workers
- Raise the minimum age for formal employment to age 16, with exceptions for appropriate light work as defined in regulations.
- Require a permit issued by the Employment Standards Branch for the employment of children under the age of 16. Establish permit criteria that considers:
- acceptable ‘light work’ including tasks and work places that do not threaten the health and safety, or hinder the education of children (12-13) and younger adolescents (14-15);
- limits on the time of day for work, appropriate to age groups (e.g. prohibit late night and overnight work); and
- limits on the length of work time on a daily and weekly basis appropriate to age groups (e.g. no more than 4 hours per day on a school day for children).
- Ensure hazardous tasks and worksites are entirely off limits to workers aged 16 –17.
- Mandate adequately resourced, government-led enforcement to ensure employer compliance and inform government’s policy monitoring.
Theme 2 – Transforming the Employment Standards Branch
- Eliminate the self-help kit process that requires workers to first attempt to enforce their rights with their employer before they are allowed to submit a complaint.
- Eliminate the compulsory mediation process so that participation in mediation is voluntary.
- Increase staffing of the dedicated enforcement team of the ESB in order to implement proactive inspections. Increase funding for the ESB accordingly.
- Restore ESB offices in remote areas, and relocate the Lower Mainland office to a central location near public transit.
- Implement a proactive system of enforcement and create a reverse onus so that employers have to disprove a complaint against them, rather than workers having to prove that a violation occurred.
Theme 3 – Supporting families with job-protected leaves of absence
- Implement paid sick leave such that all employees can accrue a minimum of one hour of paid sick time for every 35 hours worked. For a full-time 35-hour per week employee, this works out to approximately seven paid sick days per year.
- Mandate that employers must not terminate an employee because of their sick leave.
- Implement domestic violence leave of 10 days of paid leave and 17 total weeks of leave.
Theme 4 – Strengthening workers’ ability to recover wages/ monies owed
- Extend the wage recovery period to three years.
- Extend the limitation period for filing a complaint to two years for all individuals subject to the Employment Standards Act.
Theme 5 – Clarifying hours of work and overtime standards
- Require employers to post work schedules at least two weeks in advance, including work and shift start and end times and meal breaks scheduled during the work period.
- Employees should receive the equivalent of one hour’s pay if the schedule is changed with less than one week’s notice.
- For emergency circumstances, require employers to give 24 hours of notice.
- Employees should receive the equivalent of four hours’ pay if the schedule is changed with less than 24 hours’ notice.
- Ensure notice of schedules is provided in the first languages of those employees who do not have English as their first language.
- Require that if an employee is required to report for work, and if the employee is scheduled to work for more than four hours on the day, the employee must receive a minimum of four hours’ pay if work starts and a minimum of two hours’ pay if it does not.
- Implement the BC Employment Standards Coalition’s proposed provision on Voluntary Overtime, such that employees can choose to work overtime (more than 40 hours per week) but employers shall not require an employee to work or be at the employer’s disposal for more than 44 hours per week, with the exception of emergency circumstances.
- If an employee refuses to work overtime, no disciplinary action should be taken against the employee.
- Reinstate double time pay if workers are required to work during the 32-hour free-from-work period, and if workers work more than 12 hours per day and 48 hours per week.
- Reinstate the pre-2002 flexible work schedule provisions, replacing the current overtime averaging provisions, as described by the BC Employment Standards Coalition.
Theme 6 – Improving fairness for terminated workers
- Eliminate the three-month eligibility requirement for termination notice or pay in lieu of notice.
- Require employers to provide notice of termination, or pay in lieu of notice, based on the total length of employment, including for seasonal industries and those with other recurring breaks beyond the 13-week layoff period.
- Require employers to have just cause for termination to protect employees from unjust dismissal.
- Implement an expedited adjudication process for workers who have been unjustly dismissed.