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Amendments to part II of the Canada Labour Code

Part II of the Canada Labour Code (Code) governs occupational health and safety for employers and employees in industries under federal jurisdiction (e.g. banking, telecommunications, inter-provincial and international road transportation).

A number of changes to the Code came into force on October 31, 2014. These changes will reinforce the internal responsibility system to improve protection for Canadian workers and allow the Labour Program to better focus its attention on critical issues affecting the health and safety of Canadians in their workplace.

The amendments will also help improve the quality and consistency of decisions being made by the Labour Program and ensure that health and safety officer time is used more effectively to enforce regulations and focus on preventing workplace accidents.

Clarifying the definition of “danger” and reinforcing the accountability of workplace parties in resolving refusals to work

The amendments will clarify the definition of “danger” to ensure that work refusals concern situations where an employee is faced with an imminent or serious threat to their life or health. The amendments ensure that the definition of “danger” and the work refusal process are balanced and clear. Once a refusal to work occurs, the new process will ensure that employers and employees assess and address occupational health and safety issues effectively, efficiently and in a collaborative manner before involving the Labour Program of Employment and Social Development Canada.

Providing the Minister of Labour with all the powers and authorities previously conferred upon health and safety officers

The amendments will provide the Minister of Labour (the Minister) with the powers, duties and functions previously conferred on health and safety officers. The Minister will also have the authority, under subsection 140(1) of the Code, to delegate those powers, duties or functions to any qualified person or class of persons. The amendments will provide the Minister with greater oversight and accountability for the enforcement of Part II of the Code, which will lead to a more consistent approach in its enforcement.

Providing the Labour Program with discretion and flexibility to conduct its work in the most efficient manner possible

The amendments will allow the Minister to combine work refusals that affect the same employer and involve substantially the same issues. Furthermore, the Minister will have the authority to decline to investigate refusals to work which can be more effectively dealt with under another act or which are deemed to be trivial, frivolous, vexatious, or made in bad faith.

By Guylaine Lacerte

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Employer Advisor, McCarthy Tétrault LLP

Employment and labour lawyers at McCarthy Tétrault LLP
McCarthy Tétrault through their Employer Advisor blogs offers their perspectives on the latest legal developments applicable to the workplace. It provides their insights on legislative and regulatory developments, as well as new case law, while providing practical tips for employers and their human resources professionals when managing the workforce. McCarthy Tétrault is a Canadian law firm that delivers integrated business law, litigation services, tax law, real property law, labour and employment law nationally and globally. Several of their blog posts will be republished with permission on First Reference Talks. Read more
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