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HRLaw: Wrap up and other legislative changes effective in 2014 across Canada

Several changes to pensions, employment standards, health and safety, payroll and other HR law requirements are coming into force January 1, 2014 or later. Below you will find brief summaries, listed by jurisdiction, of some of the important changes employers need to know about and prepare for:

National (applies to all Canadian jurisdictions)

1. Payroll: Year end and rates for 2014. It’s the time of the year again when employers and payroll specialists have to start their T4 year-end process and need to know what’s new in payroll for 2014. All employee payroll records for the year in question must be updated, adjusted, and cleared prior to December 31 of each year. Employers must file 2013 T4 information returns and summary forms, and provide employees with T4 slips by the last day of February 2014 (February 28). Additional information on T4s, end of the year issues and payroll amounts effective January 1, 2014, read this article provided by HRinfodesk published by First Reference Inc. titled: “End of the year 2013 – what’s new for payroll 2014.” (Login required) In addition, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) has crunched the numbers and despite the federal government’s announcement that it’s freezing Employment Insurance taxes for three years, many Canadians’ paycheques will be getting smaller after January 1st as EI and Canada Pension Plan taxes go up. Read more here.

2. HRSDC changes name again: The Department of Human Resources and Skills Development is continued under the name of the Department of Employment and Social Development. This change was enacted in budget Bill C-4, A second act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 21, 2013 and other measures, which received royal assent on December 12, 2013. The name change is now in force.

Federally regulated workplaces

1. New requirements for long-term disability plans: Effective July 1, 2014, sections 434, 435 and 438 of the Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act are in force to amend the Canada Labour Code to require every federally regulated employer (those in industries such as telecommunications, cross-border transportation and banking) that provides benefits under a long-term disability (LTD) plan to its employees to insure the plan on a go-forward basis in order to protect employees should the employer go bankrupt. For details, you can read article number 38648. (Login required)

2. Increase to maximum fines for violations of minimum standards under Canada Labour Code. Effective July 1, 2014, Sections 436, 437 and 439 of the Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act are in force to amend the Canada Labour Code to increase the maximum fines for violations of the minimum standards established under Part III (Standard Hours, Wages, Vacations and Holidays) of the Code. For details, you can read article number 38649. (Login required)

3. Part II of the Canada Labour Code: Bill C-4, A second act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 21, 2013 and other measures, which passed royal assent on December 12, 2013, amends the Occupational Health and Safety provisions in the Canada Labour Code to change the definition of “danger”; amendments to the work refusal process and the investigation of continuing work refusals; remove all references to health and safety officers and to confer on the Minister of Labour their powers, duties and functions; make consequential amendments to the National Energy Board Act, the Hazardous Materials Information Review Act and the Non-smokers’ Health Act.

4. Collective bargaining in the public sector: Bill C-4, A second act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 21, 2013 and other measures, which passed royal assent on December 12, 2013, significantly changing the collective bargaining and recourse systems provided by the Public Service Labour Relations Act, including:

  • Amending the dispute resolution process for collective bargaining by removing the choice of dispute resolution method and substituting conciliation (this means there would be the possibility of the use of a strike as the method by which the parties may resolve impasses)
  • Stating that where 80 percent or more of the positions in a bargaining unit are considered necessary for providing an essential service, the dispute resolution mechanism would be arbitration
  • Stating that, with respect to essential services, the employer has the exclusive right to determine that a service is essential and the numbers of positions that will be required to provide that service (bargaining agents are to be consulted as part of the essential services process)
  • Changing the collective bargaining process by extending the timeframe within which a notice to bargain collectively may be given before the expiry of a collective agreement or arbitral award
  • Modifying the factors that arbitration boards and public interest commissions must take into account when making awards or reports
  • Amending the processes for the making of awards and reports; removing the compensation analysis and research function from the mandate of the Public Service Labour Relations Board
  • Streamlining the recourse process set out for grievances and complaints in Part 2 of the Public Service Labour Relations Act and for staffing complaints under the Public Service Employment Act
  • Establishing a single forum for employees to challenge decisions relating to discrimination in the public service-grievances and complaints are to be heard by the Public Service Labour Relations Board under the grievance process set out in the Public Service Labour Relations Act
  • Confirming that these grievances and complaints are to be the same ones that currently exist under the Canadian Human Rights Act and that this would include the one-year limitation period (however, grievances and complaints related specifically to staffing complaints are to be heard by the Public Service Staffing Tribunal)
  • Confirming that, with the sole exception of grievances relating to issues of discrimination, employees included in a bargaining unit may only present or refer an individual grievance to adjudication if they have the approval of and are represented by their bargaining agent
  • Defining more clearly an adjudicator’s remedial power when dealing with a policy grievance
  • Providing for a clearer apportionment of the expenses of adjudication relating to the interpretation of a collective agreement (they are to be borne in equal parts by the employer and the bargaining agent)
  • Confirming that the expenses of adjudication for employees who are not represented by a bargaining agent are to be borne by the Public Service Labour Relations Board
  • Amending the recourse process for staffing complaints under the Public Service Employment Act by ensuring that the right to complain is triggered only in situations when more than one employee participates in an exercise to select employees that are to be laid off
  • Establishing that the Public Service Labour Relations and Employment Board would replace the Public Service Labour Relations Board and the Public Service Staffing Tribunal. The new Board would deal with matters that were previously dealt with by those former Boards under the Public Service Labour Relations Act and the Public Service Employment Act, which would permit proceedings under those Acts to be consolidated

Alberta

1. Government and union relations: Bill 45: Public Sector Services Continuation Act, received royal assent on December 11, 2013 and will come in force at a later date on proclamation. According to the Alberta government, the goal of the changes is to protect Albertans from illegal strikes in regards to important public sector services. In addition, Bill 46, Public Service Salary Restraint Act, received royal assent on December 11, 2013 and will also come in force at a later date on proclamation. The goal is to resolve the conflict between the Government of Alberta and the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE) on a new collective agreement. The Bill provides a framework in which the government and the AUPE can negotiate a fair agreement that fits within the government’s fiscal restraint policy, consistent with agreements reached this year with Alberta’s doctors and teachers. For more information on both these new laws, read article 39709.

2. Ticketable fines: Alberta’s Protection and Compliance Statutes Amendment Act, 2012 (Formerly Bill 6) came into force on September 6, 2013. Section 40 in the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation regarding new administrative penalties and fines is now effective. Under the new system, starting January 1, 2014, OHS officers will have the ability to issue tickets of up to $500 on the spot to employers or workers caught flouting workplace safety rules on the job site. There are more than 60 contraventions under the Health and Safety Code for which employers and employees could be ticketed. These include everything from failing to wear personal protective equipment to smoking in a work area where a flammable substance is being used or stored.

3. Bill 203, Employment Standards (Compassionate Care Leave) Amendment Act, 2012: The Bill introduces a new statutory leave under Employment Standards call compassionate care. The Bill received royal assent on May 27, 2013 and will come into force on proclamation. Starting on February 1, 2014, Alberta’s Employment Standards Code will require employers to provide compassionate care leave to employees. The new provisions will allow qualifying employees up to eight weeks of leave to provide care or support to a seriously ill family member if the employee is the primary caregiver. To qualify for compassionate care leave, employees will need to provide the employer with a certificate from a physician stating a family member has a significant risk of death within 26 weeks and requires the support of one or more family members. Employees must also have been employed by their employers for 52 consecutive weeks to receive this entitlement. Employees’ jobs are protected while they are taking this leave.

Manitoba

1. Legislation to remove barriers for people with disabilities passed: On December 3, 2013, the Manitoba government passed Bill 26, The Accessibility for Manitobans Act. The Bill received royal assent on December 5, 2013, and will enable the establishment of accessibility standards to achieve accessibility for Manitobans disabled by barriers in various areas of daily life such as employment, accommodation, the built environment (facilities, buildings, structures and premises), public transportation and transportation infrastructure, the delivery and receipt of goods, services and information. This legislation will lay out a framework to guide the development and implementation of accessibility standards. The standards will be developed through extensive input and consultation with stakeholders to ensure a clear understanding of the obligations of individuals and organizations. The law also indicates that before an accessibility standard is established, the recommendations and the draft standard must be made available to the public for comment.

2. Minimum wage protection for employees with disabilities passed: The Employment Standards Code Amendment Act, Bill 15, passed third reading in the Manitoba Legislative Assembly on December 3, 2013. The Bill received royal assent on December 5, 2013, and protects workers with disabilities from being paid less than minimum wage in Manitoba. The new law is in force on assent.

3. Private sector privacy law: Nearly a decade after British Columbia and Alberta enacted their own private sector privacy laws, Manitoba’s legislative assembly recently passed the Personal Information Protection and Identity Theft Prevention Act, a privacy statute governing the private sector in that province. Although not yet in force, and will come into force at a later date when proclaimed, the law will govern the collection, use, disclosure and destruction of personal information by organizations in the private sector and not-for-profit sector in Manitoba, including personal information of employees collected by employers. For more information on this new law, read article 39026.

4. Bill 31, The Workplace Safety and Health Amendment Act): The Bill amends The Workplace Safety and Health Act to enable a stop work order to apply to all Manitoba workplaces of an employer when similar activities at multiple workplaces involve, or are likely to involve, an imminent risk of serious physical or health injury; providing for the appointment of a chief prevention officer and setting out the officer’s mandate; strengthening provisions for a worker exercising their right to refuse unsafe work; requiring a worker safety and health representative in every workplace with 5 or more workers, rather than 10 or more; requiring a workplace safety and health committee in seasonal workplaces, if there are at least 20 workers and the work is expected to continue for at least 90 days; clarifying provisions for paid training and other activities of worker safety and health representatives and committee members; and expanding the list of activities or contraventions for which administrative penalties may be imposed, and strengthening the enforcement of those penalties. Received third reading and royal assent on September 13, 2013 and is awaiting proclamation to come into force.

New Brunswick

1. Occupational health and safety amendments: On June 21, 2013, Bill 48, An Act to Amend the Occupational Health and Safety Act received royal assent. The new law will come into force in June 2014 and amends sections of the OHSA that will:

  • Enhance the existing requirement for health and safety policies for certain workplaces.
  • Introduce a new requirement for certain workplaces to establish an occupational health and safety program.
  • Clarify orientation and training requirements for new employees.
  • Clarify and modernize the requirement to report accidents and incidents.

For details, you can read article number 38675. (Login required)

2. Workers compensation amendments: On June 21, 2013, the New Brunswick government gave royal assent to Bill 47, An Act to Amend the Workers’ Compensation Act to institute a limitation time for workers’ compensation benefits claims application, and provide for when and how employers must notify WorkSafeNB of the possible need for workers’ compensation benefits by an employee. The new law will come into force June 2014. For details, you can read article number 38673. (Login required)

All employers in New Brunswick are affected by the above amendments.

Newfoundland and Labrador

Minimum wage to increase: Effective October 1, 2014, the Newfoundland and Labrador minimum wage will increase by 25 cents to $10.25 per hour. This will be followed by another 25 cent increase on October 1, 2015. The minimum overtime wage rate will continue to be fixed at 1.5 times the minimum wage, rounded to the nearest cent.

Nova Scotia

1. February public holiday: The Nova Scotia government passed Bill 15, An Act to Establish a Holiday in February Act on December 12, 2013 to establish the third Monday in February in 2015 and in each subsequent year as a public holiday starting in February 2015. When the Act receives royal assent, it will come into force January 1, 2015. The Labour Standards Code will be amended to add the third Monday in February in the list of public holidays. Effective February 16, 2015, employees in Nova Scotia will observe the third Monday in February (which has not been named yet family day and might receive another name) as a sixth public holiday with pay.

2. Graduated administrative penalties for workplace health and safety infractions: Bill 12, the Occupational Health and Safety Act (amended) passed third reading with a minor amendment and received royal assent on December 12, 2013. This Act comes into force on such day as the Governor in Council orders and declares by proclamation. The graduated enforcement structure would involve three steps:

  1. Education: the department would initially educate employers on safety issues and collaborate with them to ensure compliance and safety
  2. Order: during inspections, the department would issue compliance orders without financial penalty for contraventions, with timeframes to comply, and issue administrative penalties for high-risk contraventions or previously identified contraventions
  3. Penalty: the department would issue administrative penalties for repeat instances of failing to comply with previously identified contraventions, and issue administrative penalties for high-risk contraventions

For more information read article number 39721.

Ontario

1. Exemption for Employer Health Tax increasing: The Ontario government has passed legislation to increase the exemption for the Employer Health Tax starting January 1, 2014. The Ontario government passed Bill 105, Supporting Small Businesses Act, 2013. The changes mean 88 percent of private-sector employers in Ontario will now be exempt from paying the Employer Health Tax (also known as a payroll tax or EHT). The exemption increases from $400,000 to $450,000 of Ontario payroll, saving most employers up to $975 every year. This change cuts costs and reduces paperwork for businesses so they can reinvest in their company or hire more staff. The exemption will be adjusted to inflation every five years.

Private sector employers with annual payrolls over $5 million, including groups of associated employers, lose the exemption. Registered charities with all payroll sizes are able to continue to claim the exemption.

2. AODA compliance January 1, 2014 requirements: The Integrated Accessibility Standard requires that large organizations develop accessibility policies and multi-year accessibility plans and consider accessibility in their self-service kiosks, while the Information and Communication Standard mandates that large organizations’ websites and web content meet specific accessibility thresholds.

By January 1, 2014, large organizations (50 or more employees) must develop, implement and maintain a policy and multi-year plan about how they will meet the requirements of the Integrated Standard.

While the Integrated Standard requires government and public sector organizations to include accessibility features in those self-service kiosks they design or purchase, all other organizations are required to only consider the accessibility of their kiosks.

Websites and their content must meet the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, an internationally accepted standard for web accessibility developed by the World Wide Web Consortium. WCAG2.0 contains guidelines regarding writing web content in clear language, providing alternate text for images, and ensuring that individuals can navigate the website using only a keyboard. WAG 2.0 contains three levels of accessibility: A; AA; and AAA (being the highest). By January 1, 2014, large organizations must ensure that their new public websites and web content conform to WCAG 2.0 Level A.

3. Province introducing mandatory occupational health and safety training: On November 14, 2013, the Ontario government filed Occupational Health and Safety Awareness Training Regulations, Ontario Regulation 297/13, under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, providing for mandatory occupational health and safety training for all workers and supervisors in the province who are covered by the Act. Sections 1 to 4 of the Regulation, which provide new mandatory training obligations for workers and supervisors, as well as exemptions and rules for the maintenance of training records, will come into force on July 1, 2014. Section 5 of the regulation regarding certification training came in force on November 14, 2013. Although OHS training has always been required under the law, mandatory basic health and safety awareness training was a key recommendation of the Expert Advisory Panel on Occupational Health and Safety, led by Tony Dean in 2010. For details, you can read article number 39587. (Login required)

4. Pensions: access locked-in retirement funds: Starting January 1, 2014, individuals should find it easier to access locked-in retirement funds in times of personal financial hardship. Ontario will no longer require individuals to apply to the Superintendent of Financial Services in order to access their locked-in funds. They will now apply directly to their financial institutions. The government has also reduced the number of criteria for accessing locked-in funds from seven to four. For details, you can read article number 38769. (Login required)

5. Pensions: new pension plan merger rules: Ontario’s new pension plan merger rules came into effect on January 1, 2014. These new asset transfer rules under new versions of section 80 (sale of business) and 81 (same employer mergers) of the Pension Benefits Act (PBA), and related regulations require the superintendent of Financial Services to consent to the transfer if the prescribed requirements are met. Under the former rule, an asset transfer could be refused consent if, in the superintendent’s view, it failed to protect members’ pension and other benefits. Overall, the new rules are intended to facilitate transfers and, as a result, make it easier to keep members’ benefits whole and in one plan. The Communiqué says the big innovation is the ability to change past service benefits, subject to protection of the commuted value and the restriction that the pension amount cannot be reduced by more than 15 percent. However, it is doubtful that this will serve to facilitate transactions given the complexity of the individual calculations that would be necessary. On the other hand, there will be circumstances in which this is a valuable option despite the effort required.

6. The Retirement Homes Act: The Ontario Seniors’ Secretariat is bringing into force sections of the Retirement Homes Act, 2010 and its regulation to further safeguard seniors living in retirement homes. These provisions include among others, making police background checks mandatory for staff and volunteers before they work in the home and allowing the Retirement Homes Regulatory Authority to conduct inspections in response to retaliation of threats against whistleblowers.

7. Fees coming into effect on January 1, 2014: Effective January 1, 2014, the Ministry of Finance, on behalf of the Ontario Ministry of Labour, will introduce a new fee to charge 20 percent to an employer to recover wages owed to an employee under the Employment Standards Act. This provision already existed, but was not enforced until now.

Prince Edward Island

Bill No. 23, An Act to Amend the Workers Compensation Act: This Bill includes amendments to modernize the Workers Compensation Act. The Bill received third reading and royal assent on December 6, 2013, and will come into force at a later date on proclamation.

Quebec

1. Achieving pay equity: January 1, 2014, is a new deadline in the application of the Pay Equity Act for Quebec organizations. This is the deadline by which many more employers with 10 or more employees will have to achieve pay equity in their business and have posted the results. This deadline applies to all employers that became subject to the Act during the calendar years 2008 or 2009. For details, you can read article number 38777. (Login required)

2. Bill to enact voluntary retirement savings plan passed: On December 4, 2013, Bill 39, Voluntary Retirement Savings Plans Act (VRSPs) received royal assent in the Quebec legislature. The new law will come into effect on July 1, 2014. VRSPs are mainly for employees who do not have access to a group retirement savings plan with source deductions offered by their employers. Employees will not have to take any steps to sign up; it will be done automatically. Self-employed workers and any other interested parties will also be able to sign up for VRSPs by contacting an authorized administrator. The deadline to meet this requirement differs depending on the size of the company. Employers covered by the Act must offer employees a VRSP at the latest by:

  • December 31, 2016, if they have 20 or more eligible employees on June 30, 2016;
  • December 31, 2017, if they have 10 to 19 eligible employees on June 30, 2017;
  • The date determined by the government, which cannot be prior to January 1, 2018, if they have 5 to 9 eligible employees.

Other organizations can offer employees a VRSP on a voluntary basis. For more, read article number 38573. (Login required)

Saskatchewan

1. Amendments to workers compensation: The Saskatchewan’s Workers’ Compensation Act, 2012, came into force January 1, 2014. The new law among other things improves benefits for injured workers by increasing the maximum insurable earnings from $55,000 to $59,000. Introduce a system of indexation to ensure benefits are adjusted annually. Allowing workers, upon reaching age 65, to choose between purchasing an annuity or receiving a lump sum payment; and providing the board with the ability to assess administrative penalties. For more, read article number 38100. (Login required)

2. Bill 82, The Saskatchewan Pension Plan Amendment Act, 2012: Several housekeeping amendments to The Saskatchewan Pension Plan Act (the Act) are being proposed by the SPP Board. Amendments to the survivor benefits provision will require an individual to designate their spouse as beneficiary prior to retirement and to select a minimum joint and last survivor 60 percent at retirement. These entitlements can be waived by the receiving spouse. This change would bring SPP’s rules in line with The Pension Benefits Act, 1993 and would open the door for SPP to receive transfers from locked-in pension funds. A change to the Act is also being proposed to establish a provision to deal with funds payable to persons who cannot be located. Bill 82 received third reading on May 1, 2013 and received royal assent on May 15, 2013. The law is expected to be proclaimed into law January 2, 2014.

3. Bill 85, The Saskatchewan Employment Act: The Saskatchewan Employment Act consolidates labour legislation from twelve employment and Labour Acts into one updated and comprehensive Act. Bill 85 received royal assent on May 15, 2013 and is expected to be in force in 2014.

If I missed anything, let me know… I will be happy to review and add to the list.

Yosie Saint-Cyr LL.B.
First Reference Human Resources and HR Law Compliance Managing Editor

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Yosie Saint-Cyr, LL.B. Managing Editor

Managing Editor at First Reference Inc.
Yosie Saint-Cyr, LL.B., is a trained lawyer called to the Quebec bar in 1988 and is still a member in good standing. She practiced business, employment and labour law until 1999. For over 18 years, Yosie has been the Managing Editor of the following publications, Human Resources Advisor, Human Resources PolicyPro, HRinfodesk and Accessibility Standards PolicyPro from First Reference. Yosie is one of Canada’s best known and most respected HR authors, with an extensive background in employment and labour across the country. Read more
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