Canadian Employment Law: 10 Things You May Not Know

Flag_of_Canada_svgDo employment contracts in Canada need to be in writing? Are Canadian employees entitled to sick pay? Has Canada produced more comedians per capita than any other country?  OK the last one does not make the list, but there are plenty of unique facts that employers with a workforce in Canada need to be aware.

1. Employment Contracts

There is no requirement that an employment contract in Canada be in writing, or that an employer provide its employees with a written statement of their terms and conditions of employment. In most instances, an offer letter signed by both parties will create a binding employment contract

2. Pay Increases

Unless provided by contract, pay increases are not legally required. However, it is common for employers to provide an increase each year, even if it is just a minimal one.

3. Public Holidays

Provinces and territories only share five public holidays, but each provide for additional public holidays with some common to more than one jurisdiction.

4. Weekly Rest Period

All jurisdictions provide for a statutory minimum weekly rest period. The most common rule is that employees must have at least 24 consecutive hours of rest each week.

5. Duty to Inform

Employers in Ontario, Manitoba, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Prince Edward Island have a duty to provide information to workers regarding people with a history of violent behavior, where the worker can be expected to encounter that person in the course of his or her work, and the risk of workplace violence is likely to expose the worker to physical injury.

6. Sick Pay

Employees are not entitled to receive sick pay from their employer under federal or provincial/territorial laws. The only exception is Prince Edward Island, where employees with at least five years’ service with their employer are entitled to one day of paid sick leave in a 12-month period. However, all jurisdictions, except Alberta, British Columbia and Nunavut, provide for unpaid sick leave. In some cases, the sick leave entitlement is combined with another type of leave, such as family responsibility leave.

7. Preemployment Testing

There must be a legitimate business purpose for an employer to require an applicant to submit to preemployment testing, such as aptitude tests and medical examinations. An employer must also ensure that the tests disclose no information beyond what is specifically related to the legitimate business purpose.

8. Termination

In very limited circumstances, employees can be dismissed for conduct that takes place outside of working hours and away from their place of employment. However, employees who have made blog or Facebook posts disparaging their employers, co-workers or supervisors have had their dismissals upheld.

9. Drug and Alcohol Addiction

In most provinces and territories, drug and alcohol addiction is considered to be an illness or disability. Therefore, employees and job applicants who suffer from such addictions have the same rights as those who suffer from any other mental or physical illness entitling them to accommodations. However, casual or recreational drug and alcohol users do not have this protection under human rights legislation, with the exception of where the relevant law prohibits discrimination on grounds of “perceived disability.”

10. Parental Leave

Employees in all jurisdictions are entitled to take parental leave (also known as childcare leave), in addition to the maternity leave. This entitlement applies to both biological and adoptive parents. The entitlement is a combined one for both parents, which may be taken by one parent or shared by both.  This combined entitlement is up to 37 weeks in the federal jurisdiction, Alberta, New Brunswick and Yukon.


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