Brief Guide to Western and Atlantic Employment Law Changes in 2020

by & Lewis Waring, Paralegal and Student-at-Law, Daniel Standing LL.B. and Shawn Gallimore LL.B., Editors, First Reference Inc.

2020 promises to be a busy year in Western and Atlantic provinces with a variety of legislative and regulatory changes impacting employers in various ways. In this article, we provide employers with an overview of some of the key changes that have been announced in Western and Atlantic to assist in compliance. We also mention some changes that employers should anticipate being made in the coming year.

1. Alberta

Farm Freedom and Safety Act

This year, various changes affect farming and ranching operations.

First, since January 31, employment standards only apply to farms and ranches with six or more waged, non-family employees who have worked at least six consecutive months. Smaller operations falling below that threshold are exempt from the standards.

Second, the deadline for farm workers to receive mandatory truck driver training has been extended to March 1, 2020. The Alberta government says it will take a second look at the training requirements for ALL commercial truck drivers. So more changes are expected in 2020.

Third, as of January 31, a farming or ranching employer must ensure that its farming or ranching employees either have private insurance coverage authorized by the regulations, or have coverage under the Workers’ Compensation Act. Note that this change does not apply to operations that employ five or fewer workers, not including family members and those who have less than six consecutive months of service with the employer.

Minimum wage

Albertan employers can also anticipate changes respecting the provincial minimum wage. The current rate of $15 per hour was set on October 1, 2018. Since that time, a panel of industry experts and professionals was put together by the Alberta government to assess the minimum wage, and their work is expected to finish in early 2020, which could lead to an amended rate in the Employment Standards Regulation.

Payroll

From a payroll standpoint, the government’s 2019 budget was significant for its elimination of the education and tuition tax credits for 2020 and later taxation years. However, credits earned prior to 2020 can still be claimed. Also, indexation of the Alberta Basic Personal Amount and income thresholds have been suspended for 2020 and future years.

Occupational health and safety changes

Changes were made to Alberta employers’ responsibilities in relation to joint health and safety committees and safety representatives. Now, effective January 31, 2020, the employer must meet its requirements as an entire organization. Previously, the requirements were set in relation to each specific site where it carried on its operations. Also, government-approved training is mandatory for JHSC co-chairs and worker representatives under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, however, the number of training courses is reduced from two to one.

Alberta employers can also anticipate the passing of a private member’s bill, Bill 206, the Workers’ Compensation (Enforcement of Decisions) Amendment Act, 2019, in early 2020, which would give workers who are injured on the job the ability to apply to the Court of Queen’s Bench if the Workers’ Compensation Board does not implement a decision within the required time period or in a timely way. The Bill would also grant the court the power to award the applicant costs incurred from making the application, including solicitor-client costs.

Pension

The pension scheme in Alberta will see changes in 2020 with recent amendments to the Alberta Employment Pension Plans Act. Effective January 1, the changes ensure that pension benefits are divided amongst a broader scope of pension partners, implementing the law following a 2018 court decision. Now, the division of pension benefits is contemplated in situations of the breakdown of a relationship of “adult interdependent partners,” regardless of whether they were married or not.

Protection of Students with Life-threatening Allergies Act

Since January 1, 2020, school boards must establish anaphylaxis policies that reduce risk of exposure, communicate information to students and parents, train employees and maintain files for anaphylactic students, among other tasks. Schools must have EpiPens onsite.

More changes coming

We still expect to see more changes to Alberta’s Employment Standards Code in 2020.

Alberta has and continues to conduct reviews of employment law-related changes.

They are reviewing all regulations as part of the government’s Red Tape Reduction Action Plan, with the goal of reducing the regulatory burden on job creators by one third.

The government is reviewing changes to employment standards, occupational health and safety and workers’ compensation, and reviewing the existing human rights legislation. The government would like to streamline all these pieces of legislation to be consistent with each other, remove duplication, overlap and any unnecessary regulatory burdens or red tape for job creators, employees and union members. An example of duplication and overlap is a discrimination or harassment complaint that can be filed to both the Occupational Health and Safety and the Human Rights Commissions. The complaints would be filed to just one body.

Alberta is also tabling their 2020 budget on Thursday, February 27, 2020. Therefore, we may know more on what changes are coming to employment law and payroll.

2. British Columbia

MSP premiums and EHT implementation

This year ushers in various changes that have a financial impact on employers and residents in British Columbia. Firstly, following the 2018 reduction of Medical Services Plan premiums, as of January 1, 2020, British Columbia residents are no longer charged monthly MSP premiums, thereby saving individuals up to $900 and families up to $1,800 annually. The premiums were replaced with the Employer Health Tax. However, the structure of MSP accounts will remain the same, and for those who were approved for Temporary Premium Assistance for a period ending after January 1, 2020, they will receive supplementary benefits until December 31, 2020. Likewise, individuals who were provided premium-free MSP coverage between the ages of 19 and 25 for a period ending after January 1, 2020, will receive supplementary benefits until December 31, 2020.

Employers with British Columbia remuneration above the exemption amount in a calendar year must register for the Employer Health Tax. The exemption amount is $1,500,000 per calendar year for registered charitable or non-profit employers. For all other employers, the exemption amount is $500,000 per calendar year. Employers not required to pay instalments in 2019 should have registered by December 31, 2019, and file and pay their first return by March 31, 2020.

The full weight of BC’s Employer Health Tax is to be felt in 2020.

Minimum wage increases

Another financial change that affects many employers and employees alike are the coming changes to minimum wage due to be implemented on June 1, 2020. The general minimum wage will increase to $14.60 per hour from the current $13.85. The general minimum wage will increase further to at least $15.20 on June 1, 2021.

The wage applicable to liquor servers is $13.95 per hour from the current $12.70 per hour. On June 1, 2021, this rate will be eliminated and the wage applicable to liquor servers will be the same as the regular minimum wage of $15.20 per hour.

Live-in home support workers are paid a daily rate and this rate is set to remain at $113.50 per day or part day worked.

Live-in camp leaders are also paid a daily rate and currently earn $110.87 per day or part day worked. This rate will increase June 1, 2020, to $116.86 and on June 1, 2021, to $121.65.

Resident caretakers rates will increase as follows:

  • in apartment buildings with 9 to 60 suites, the rate is currently $831.45 a month plus $33.32 for each suite. It will increase to $876.35 a month plus $35.12 for each suite on June 1, 2020, and to $912.28 a month plus $35.56 for each suite on June 1, 2021.
  • in apartment buildings with 61 or more suites, the current monthly rate is $2,832.11 but will increase to $2,985.04 on June 1, 2020, and to $3,107.42 on June 1, 2021.

A permanent Fair Wage Commission was established to continue examining issues related to low wages in BC and to give advice on future increases to the minimum wage. The permanent Commission will establish predictable indicators to guide future increases to the minimum wage, such as the CPI (or some other relationship such as between the minimum wage and the poverty level or average wage levels). This indicator should be used as a basis for change in conjunction with consideration of other economic indicators.

Another report is expected from the Commission that examines how a livable wage can be reconciled with a minimum wage in BC and to advise the government on strategies to address the discrepancy between the minimum wage and liveable wages.

In addition, the Commission will advise the government on how increases to the minimum wage should be treated once $15/hour is reached.

The Fair Wages Commission is also continuing an in-depth look at how to ensure that compensation for farmworkers is both fair for workers and sustainable for farm operators going forward.

Employment standards changes

In the 2020 throne speech of February 11, the British Columbia government pledged to expand upon last year’s legislation that gives people fleeing domestic violence up to 10 days of unpaid job-protected leave with “the next step and providing these workers with paid leave, for up to five days.”

The government also intends to continue the implementation to youth employment changes, which include raising the age a child may work from 12 to 16 years of age, and better protecting the safety of children 16 to 18 years old by putting tough restrictions on the type of hazardous work they can be asked to perform.

Further amendments to employment standards are coming which may include:

  • abolishing overtime banks and providing a new right to refuse overtime without reprisal;
  • increasing “call-in” pay and restricting last-minute changes to shift schedules;
  • loosening restrictions to allow employers to have compressed workweeks without incurring liability for overtime; and
  • requiring employees to complete a new three-month qualifying period for statutory leaves.

Pension changes

Employers will recall the provincial government’s amendments to Schedule 8 of the Pension Benefits Standards Regulation which applied to valuations with review dates on and after December 31, 2018, but prior to January 1, 2021. The goal of this measure was to extend solvency funding relief whereby employers could amortize solvency deficiency payments over a 10-year period. Employers who did not take advantage of solvency funding relief during the original 2015 to 2017 period will be eligible to consolidate their prior solvency deficiencies up to the date of the review to December 31, 2020.

Accessibility legislation

The British Columbia government has asked British Columbians to help define future legislation that will make the province a more accessible and inclusive province. It will also support the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its optional protocol, which calls for greater accessibility and opportunities for persons with disabilities on an equal basis with others.

Upcoming legislation will address barriers (including physical, technological and attitudinal barriers) within every area of life in the province that prevents the full and equal participation of persons with disabilities in BC communities. Areas could include service delivery, employment, buildings and public spaces, information technology and transportation. This would be similar to what is already in place in Ontario, Manitoba, Nova Scotia and in the federal public and private sectors.

Tobacco and Vapour Products Control Act

Sales tax on vaping products increased from 7 to 20 percent. In the spring, regulations on vaping products require vaping packaging to carry a health warning, be of a plain nature and limit advertising in places youth spend time. Pods and liquids are only allowed to contain 20 milligrams of nicotine per millilitre.

Human Rights Commission established

The office of the new Human Rights Commission is now established and much education and awareness work is planned. The newly created Office of the Human Rights Commissioner is an independent office of the provincial legislature. BC’s Human Rights Commissioner Kasari Govender started her five-year term on September 3, 2019. Over the coming months and throughout 2020, she will build her team and structures, and visit various parts of BC to inform her strategic priorities.

Manitoba

Accessibility for Manitobans Act

Legislative changes concerning the broad topic of accessibility continue to change the employment landscape in Manitoba in 2020. For instance, the accessible employment standard under the AMA will require the government to make accessibility and accommodation a regular part of all phases of the employment relationship by May 1, 2020. By the same date, all employers in government, the public, private and non-profit sectors must comply with the requirements in the standard dealing with workplace emergency response information, and workplace emergency assistance for employees with disabilities. Manitoba employers with one or more employees are required to provide individualized emergency response information to keep those with disabilities safe.

All employers in the public sector will have to comply with the requirements in the accessible employment standard by May 1, 2021. All employers in the private and non-profit sectors with one or more employees must comply by May 1, 2022.

Payroll

From a payroll perspective, despite the lack of change to personal income tax rates for the 2020 tax year, employers will need to note that the basic personal amount is increased from $9,626 to $9,809. Beginning in 2020, as part of the Manitoba government’s ongoing efforts to increase efficiency and reduce administrative burden, all businesses must file, remit and pay the health and post-secondary education tax levy electronically. Also, for businesses remitting or paying retail sales tax of $5,000 or more per month, filing, remittances and payments will be required electronically.

Employment standards upcoming changes

Bill 2, The Retail Business Hours of Operation Act (Various Acts Amended or Repealed) amends several pieces of legislation including the Employment Standards Code and repeals others to remove restrictions to Sunday and holiday shopping. The Employment Standards Code is amended to continue the ability of retail workers to refuse to work on Sundays. This right, which is being repealed, was previously in The Retail Businesses Holiday Closing Act, This Bill is expected to pass in 2020 and be in force.

Upcoming cannabis-related changes

Bill 5, The Liquor, Gaming and Cannabis Control Amendment Act when enacted in 2020 will amend The Liquor, Gaming and Cannabis Control Act to prohibit cannabis consumption in public places unless the consumption is permitted by regulation or under The Smoking and Vapour Products Control Act.

Upcoming occupational health and safety-related changes

1. Bill 21, The Workers Compensation Amendment Act amends The Workers Compensation Act to deal with the governance of The Workers Compensation Board (“WCB”) and to respond to the 2016-2017 recommendations of the Legislative Review Committee. Several significant changes include:

I. Changes to coverage and assessment:

  • Expanding the definition of “accident” to include occupational diseases, post-traumatic stress disorder and acute reactions to traumatic events. An occupational disease presumption may be established by regulation.
  • WCB may no longer create new employer classes. An employer may be assigned to a different class in certain circumstances.
  • The existing class of provincially funded industries is repealed.

II. Compensation:

  • For calculating compensation, the maximum annual earnings is set at $150,000 (indexed).
  • WCB is provided with more flexibility to deal with compensation payments on behalf of a worker and to provide medical aid to a worker.

III. Administration:

  • WCB must establish a prevention advisory council. WCB is provided with the power to establish board committees.
  • The appeal commission now has the authority to establish practice and procedure rules.
  • Restrictions on information disclosure are enhanced.
  • The position of employer adviser is created to assist employers in understanding the Act and the decisions made under it.
  • The buyer of a business is made liable for the seller’s outstanding debts to the WCB if a clearance certificate is not first obtained.
  • Delivery and publication requirements are modernized.

IV. Enforcement:

  • An employer is prohibited from deducting employee benefits to pay for an employee’s compensation claim. WCB may reimburse an affected employee and collect the amount from the employer.
  • Penalties are added to late annual assessment payments.
  • WCB lien priorities and registration requirements, as well as its enforcement and inspection powers and administrative penalty scheme, are updated.
  • Fines from administrative penalties and offences are to be paid into the accident fund.
  • The above changes are expected to be enacted in 2020.

    2. Bill 12, The Workplace Safety and Health Amendment Act is also expected to be enacted in 2020 to significantly amend The Workplace Safety and Health Act to reduce duplication, strengthen penalties for serious workplace infractions and improve the efficiency of services. This Bill makes the following amendments to The Workplace Safety and Health Act:

    • a discriminatory action is now referred to as a reprisal;
    • the position of the chief prevention officer is eliminated;
    • a referral for a reprisal must now be made to a safety and health officer within six months after the date of the alleged reprisal;
    • an appeal of a decision made by a safety and health officer may be dismissed by the director if the appeal is frivolous or vexatious, or, in the case of a reprisal, if it was not referred to an officer within six months;
    • maximum fines for offences under the Act are increased.

    Pension changes

    Bill 8, The Pension Benefits Amendment Act when enacted in 2020 will amend The Pension Benefits Act to strengthen its current pension benefits legislation and provide Manitobans more flexibility, including among other things:

    • allowing a pension plan to permit a member that continues to be employed after reaching the normal retirement age to stop contributing to the plan and accruing benefits
    • clarifying how ancillary benefits are to be determined
    • allowing a person who transfers their pension benefit credit to a locked-in retirement account or life income fund.

    Labour changes

    Bill 16, The Labour Relations Amendment Act when enacted will allow the transition of conciliation and grievance mediation functions to the private sector. This Bill is also expected to pass in 2020.

    Saskatchewan

    Employment standards upcoming changes

    Bill 200, The Saskatchewan Employment Amendment Act, 2019 was tabled in late 2019 and is expected to pass and come into force in 2020. This Bill increases parental leave by eight weeks to ensure that employees who are entitled to the new shared parental Employment Insurance benefit have job protection while accessing benefits, and expands candidate-public office leave to include employees who are running for election to a Band Council.

    Minimum wage

    An increased minimum wage is somewhat less certain in Saskatchewan than in other Western provinces. Under the terms of a private member’s Bill introduced in 2018, Bill 611, the Saskatchewan Employment (Incremental Increase to the Minimum Wage) Amendment Act anticipated an increase to $13.00 per hour on and from January 1, 2020. The Bill did not progress as anticipated and is still in its first reading. It may be passed later with amendments, or defeated altogether. That said, Saskatchewan’s legislation provides for an annual review based on changes to the Consumer Price Index and the average hourly wage for the previous year. Any changes to the minimum wage are to be announced by June 30. Changes take effect on October 1.

    Amendment to Traffic Safety Act

    On February 1, 2020, distracted driving fines were raised from $280 to $580 plus four demerit points for a first-time offence. Penalties rise incrementally for second and third offences.

    A second distracted driving offence within the same year will cost $1,400, four demerits and an immediate week-long vehicle seizure. A third offence within the same year will cost the driver $2,100.

    The Legislative Assembly (Election Dates) Amendment Act, 2018

    This law prescribes the next provincial election will take place on October 26, 2020, followed by fixed-date elections held on the last Monday of October in the fourth calendar year after the last general election.

    New Brunswick

    WorksafeNB appeals process changes

    As of January 1, WorkSafeNB’s Decision Review Office (previously known as the Issues Resolutions Office) now reviews every decision when requested before an appeal can be filed to the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Tribunal (WCAT).

    This refers to any decision made on or after January 1, and excludes decisions under the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

    In addition, all reviews by the Decision Review Office must be initiated by a worker or employer within 90 days of the original decision.

    Workers and employers will have one year from the date of the DRO decision to appeal this decision to the WCAT. It is important to understand that an appeal to the WCAT cannot be filed without a decision from Decision Review Office.

    As explained by WorksafeNB, this new process and 90-day timeline will help ensure workers and employers receive timely service. This helps New Brunswick’s workers and employers move forward with what matters most to them – effective recovery or business continuity.

    Occupational health and safety harmonization with other jurisdictions

    The New Brunswick government has tabled amendments to the General Regulation under the Occupational Health and Safety Act to harmonize occupational safety and health regulations in several key areas to reduce barriers to interprovincial trade and increase labour mobility while maintaining protections for workers. These changes will enable alignment with accepted practices and requirements in other jurisdictions. This Regulation, if enacted, comes into force on April 1, 2020.

    The amendments to the General Regulation include:

    • extending baseline hearing test requirements from within 70 days of hire to up to six months and replacing annual hearing reports with requirements to report every two years;
    • clarifying existing requirements for the provision and use of several types of personal protective equipment including high-visibility safety apparel, hearing protection, life jackets and personal flotation devices; and
    • ensuring a secondary air supply is carried on the person or within arm’s reach for workers working in dangerous atmospheres.

    The government is also amending the First Aid Regulation under the Occupational Health and Safety Act to remove reference to Schedule C and refer instead to the CSA standard CSA Z1220-17: First aid kits for the workplace as it relates to first aid training. When a CSA or other standard is referenced in a regulation, it becomes a legal requirement and the minimum standard.

    In 2019, six of the 14 jurisdictions revised their regulations in accordance with nationally agreed-to standards, including Manitoba, Nova Scotia, British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Yukon and the federally regulated sector. The initial harmonization changes affect personal protective equipment, first-aid kits, personal flotation devices and high-visibility apparel. The next wave will likely include respiratory protection and noise hazards. Meanwhile, the jurisdictions will continue to work together to identify national standards for future harmonization of other OHS requirements.

    New garnishment rules

    The effects of the new garnishment rules will be felt in 2020. The New Brunswick Enforcement of Money Judgments Act (EMJA) came into force on December 1, 2019, allowing creditors to garnish an employee’s wages. Historically in New Brunswick, creditors could not garnish the wages of an individual unless they were the CRA or the garnishment was for Family Support Payments, such as child support. Now with the EMJA, any creditor can apply for a judgment by the courts and garnish the wages of an individual until they receive the amount owed to them. This means that creditors are now permitted to reach out to an employer of the employee who is a debtor to have them set up the garnishment.

    The government is still working on guidelines that will soon be published on their website.

    Minimum wage may increase in 2020

    Since 2019, the New Brunswick minimum wage rate is indexed to New Brunswick’s consumer price index, rounded to the nearest five cents. The provincial government and the governments of Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland and Labrador have agreed to harmonize the date of effect of any minimum wage increase to April 1. New Brunswick has announced the April 1, 2020, minimum wage increase to $11.70 per hour from $11.50 per hour.

    Nursing collective bargaining

    Bill 17, An Act to Amend the Essential Services in Nursing Homes Act received royal assent on December 20, 2019, to enable meaningful collective bargaining by ensuring an appropriate number of employees can strike while not interrupting essential services to avoid endangering nursing home residents. This essentially is branding nurses as essential workers during a labour dispute. Union leaders say it will slow down the procedure, potentially for years, thereby making it harder for the unions to strike.

    However, the New Brunswick Nurses Union, the Council Of Nursing Home Unions and the Canadian Union Of Public Employees banded together to let the conservative minority government know they oppose the amendments to the essential services in Nursing Homes Act and intend to challenge it in court.

    No more annual motor vehicle inspections

    As of January 1, 2020, the province will no longer require drivers to get their personal vehicles inspected every year. Instead, the inspections will be required every two years. The cost of inspecting a vehicle will also go up from $35 to $45. This is of importance to employers who require employees to use their personal vehicle or who provide vehicles to employees to conduct work-related activities.

    Newfoundland and Labrador

    New rules to address workplace harassment

    The province’s plan to improve violence prevention provisions (including those addressing family violence) and expanded regulations regarding workplace harassment took effect January 1, 2020. Moreover, the changes to the regulations will now capture incidents involving worker-on-worker violence and will also include provisions related to harassment in the workplace, which was not previously the case.

    The changes include implementing a written health and safety plan to prevent harassment in consultation with the occupational health and safety committee, the worker health and safety representative or the workplace health and safety designate, conducting risk assessments, new training requirements for employers and employees, as well as “a secure and confidential means” for employees to file harassment complaints as well as a clear manner in which the complaint is investigated, amongst other requirements.

    Labour standards changes

    The Labour Standards Act (Amdt.) (introduced as Bill 8) received royal assent in December 2019 to:

    • remove the requirement for parental leave to begin no later than 35 weeks after a child is born or comes into the custody or care of a parent; and
    • require that parental leave come to an end on the earlier of 61 weeks from the day it began or 96 weeks after a child is born or comes into the custody or care of a parent.

    The changes came into force on assent and employers need to have updated their HR policies and practices accordingly.

    Plastic bag ban

    The province will join Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island in banning retail plastic bags. While no exact date of enforcement has been set for the ban, the provincial government says that, by mid-2020, shoppers should bring their own reusable bags to grocery stores and other retailers.

    Banning vaping cannabis products, among other things

    Bill 19, Cannabis Control Act was tabled in the legislature in December 2019 in order to implement several amendments to prohibit vaping cannabis products, among other things. The details of this Bill are not yet available for viewing, but it may be enacted in 2020.

    Minimum wage increase
    Newfoundland and Labrador’s minimum wage will increase by 25 cents to $11.65 per hour as of April 1, 2020. The minimum overtime wage rate will continue to be 1.5 times the minimum wage.

    Nova Scotia

    Accessibility standard and plan

    Under the Nova Scotia Accessibility Act, municipalities, universities and other organizations-including villages, regional libraries, and government agencies-may be prescribed as public sector bodies. (Prescribed means identified in the Accessibility Act General Regulations.) Once prescribed, these organizations-including municipalities and villages-must do the following:

    • establish an Accessibility Advisory Committee
    • develop an accessibility plan within one year

    The Act states that accessibility plans must be updated every three years. As accessibility standards are implemented, those standards should be integrated into your plan.

    Under the Accessibility Act General Regulations, the public places designated as of April 1, 2020, which must develop an accessibility plan within one year are:

    • Municipalities
    • Villages
    • Regional Libraries
    • Post-secondary Institutions (degree-granting universities and the Nova Scotia Community College)

    The public places designated as of April 1, 2021, which must develop an accessibility plan within one year are:

    • Art Gallery of Nova Scotia
    • Atlantic Provinces Special Education Authority
    • Conseil scolaire acadien provincial
    • Develop Nova Scotia
    • Events East
    • Housing Nova Scotia
    • IWK Health Centre
    • Nova Scotia Business Inc.
    • Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation
    • Nova Scotia Health Authority
    • Nova Scotia Innovation Corporation
    • Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation
    • Regional Centres for Education
    • Tourism Nova Scotia

    In addition, the drafts of the following accessibility standards under Nova Scotia’s Accessibility Act are expected in 2020:

    • Built Environment – making public buildings, streets, sidewalks and shared spaces accessible to all
    • Education – making the education system accessible to all students from early childhood to post-secondary

    Minimum wage increase

    The Nova Scotia government is increasing the minimum wage by $1.00 on April 1, 2020, to $12.55 per hour. This is higher than what was previously announced. This rate is now becoming the general minimum wage rate for the province since the government announced the elimination of the inexperienced minimum wage differential (new employees with less than three months’ relevant experience) on April 1, 2020. As a result, the minimum wage for all employees will be $12.55 per hour, irrespective of prior experience.

    Employers were expecting the minimum wage to rise by $0.55 from $11.55 to $12.10 in April; it will now increase by a further $0.45 per hour.

    In addition, under the present Minimum Wage Regulations, the partial hours rule states that when calculating the minimum wage, “a period of 15 minutes and not more than 30 minutes shall be counted as a ½ hour and a period of more than 30 minutes but less than 60 minutes shall be counted as 1 hour.” This had the effect that where an employee worked for less than 30 minutes, this would be paid in 15-minute increments, but once over 30 minutes, they had to be paid for a full hour.

    The Nova Scotia government is amending the Regulation so that additional time worked will always be paid in 15-minute increments. For example, an employee who works an additional 35 minutes will now be paid for 45 minutes rather than an hour. This change will bring Nova Scotia into line with other jurisdictions on April 1, 2020.

    Change to unionisation rules in the construction industry

    In the construction industry, employer-friendly amendments to the Nova Scotia Trade Union Act General Regulations came into force which requires applications for certification to be made Monday to Friday when a more representative number of employees is generally present on site. Prior to this, when more than 50% of employees in the construction industry working on the date of the application for certification demonstrated support, the workforce could become unionised without a vote. Therefore, when applications were made on weekends (typically when a smaller number of employees were onsite), it would have a profound impact on workplaces where a small number of employees would trigger the unionisation of a larger group of employees. The full effect of this 2019 change will be in 2020.

    Workplace harassment rules

    In October of 2019, an opposition Bill 176 Occupational Health and Safety Act (amended) was introduced that would amend the Occupational Health and Safety Act to expand the definition of violence to encompass workplace harassment and bullying, so this is something that may come to pass in 2020 or the government may table their own Bill to that effect.

    Updating the Occupational First Aid Regulations

    The Nova Scotia government is updating the Occupational First Aid Regulations. To this end, they are holding consultation sessions in January to review and discuss the proposed changes.

    The changes to the regulations are being made to meet national commitments to improve worker mobility with standardized first-aid training, and to match first aid kit contents with the CSA standard.

    This would consist of referencing, among other things, the Canadian Standards Association’s (CSA) CSA Z1210 – First aid training for the workplace and CSA Z1220, First aid kits for the workplace.

    Referencing the standards in the first-aid regulation allows for harmonization of safety regulations to be consistent with standards across all Canadian provinces and territories. It makes meeting regulatory requirements simpler and easier, especially for employers that operate across multiple jurisdictions. It eliminates duplication of effort and can have a positive impact on effective safety management.

    By harmonizing with the standard, workplace first aid will be a part of a national system in reducing barriers to trade and labour mobility.

    Full coverage under the WCA to volunteer firefighters

    The Workers’ Compensation Act (amended) (Bill 204) is set to come into force on October 30, 2020, to mandate extension of full coverage under the Workers Compensation Act to volunteer firefighters.

    Changes to income assistance

    On January 1, 2020, the province implemented changes that increased the amount of money people on income assistance receive. This increase varies from 2-5%, depending on the recipient’s living situation and family size.

    The change is a result of a new “Standard Household Rate” that replaces personal and shelter allowances for people on income assistance.

    Plastic bag ban

    Nova Scotia will join several other provinces in banning most single-use plastic bags at store checkouts next fall. Retailers will still be allowed to use the bags for live fish. Exemptions also include bags used by dry cleaners, those used by garages to wrap tires and bags used for items such as bulk foods. The ban will come into effect on October 30, 2020.

    Ban on flavoured e-cigarettes

    Nova Scotia has previously announced that it will be the first province to ban sales of flavoured e-cigarettes and vaping juices as part of regulatory changes that take effect April 1, 2020. This change is in response to concerns about the growth of youth vaping.

    Labour Standards Code changes

    1. Addressing the gender wage gap

    The Nova Scotia government has decided to address the gender wage gap by introducing amendments to the equal pay for equal work provisions under the Labour Standards Code. These amendments are to ensure that the salary of a woman, who may be paid less than her male counterpart doing the same work, will not follow her throughout her career. The amendments will also expand the equal pay provisions currently in the Labour Standards Code to employees, who do not identify exclusively, or at all, as men or women.

    The proposed amendments in Bill 221, Labour Standards Code (amended) tabled on February 20, 2020, will allow individuals to have greater access to pay information when accepting or discussing compensation for a new job. They will also prohibit employers from inquiring about the wage history of a job applicant or employee, as well as prohibit employers from barring employees from discussing or disclosing their own wages or those of other employees.

    The changes will also allow the government to expand through regulations the equal pay provisions to employees who possess certain characteristics, such as those related to race and ethnicity. The amendments add definitions of “substantially the same work” and “gender” to the equal pay provisions of the Code.

    Additionally, the amendments will allow the government to make regulations related to administrative penalties to provide the department with the ability to ensure compliance with the Labour Standards Code.

    Other amendments to Bill 221 include changes to the period certain records are required to be kept from three years to 36 months.

    If passed, the amendments would take effect in the spring.

    2. Enhancing reservist leave

    The Nova Scotia Government has introduced Bill 220, the Labour Standards Code (amended) to enhance reservist leave under the Labour Standards Code.

    Bill 220 would better align with recent federal government changes made to the reservist leave provisions under the Canada Labour Code. Federal changes to the reservist leave provisions took place in the fall 2019.

    The proposed amendments include:

    • reducing the eligibility period required to have access to reservist leave from one year to three months
    • increasing the length of the leave from 18 months, within a three-year period, to 24 months within any 60-month period and allowing for a longer period of leave in a situation involving a national emergency
    • reducing the notice to employers period from 90 days to 30 days, or as much notice as reasonably possible when an employee receives less than four weeks’ notice of the requirement to participate as a reservist

    If passed, the legislation would take effect in the spring.

    3. Housekeeping amendments to the pregnancy and parental leave provisions

    The Nova Scotia Government has introduced Bill 220, the Labour Standards Code (amended) to make housekeeping changes to the pregnancy and parental leave provisions under the Labour Standards Code.

    The proposed amendments include:

    • Reducing the start date for pregnancy leave from no sooner than 16 weeks to no sooner than 15 weeks before the expected date of delivery.
    • Providing an exception to the four-week notice requirement for pregnancy and parental leave where an employee has been employed for fewer than four weeks.

    If passed, the legislation would take effect in the spring.

    Prince Edward Island

    Workplace harassment law and regulations

    The Prince Edward Island government has declared the Eric Donovan Act (An Act to Amend the Occupational Health and Safety Act) in force on July 1, 2020, by filing to support the Act on October 15, 2019. Effective July 1, 2020, Prince Edward Island employers must comply with new workplace harassment regulations. The Occupational Health and Safety Act and Workplace Harassment Regulations define unacceptable behaviour in the workplace and require employers to develop a policy to prevent and investigate harassment. Prince Edward Island employers will be required to keep the details of the harassment complaint confidential, unless and to the extent that disclosure is necessary in order to report the incident of harassment or to cooperate in the investigation of the complaint. Workers must also cooperate in the investigation of complaints.

    Minimum wage increase April 1, 2020

    Prince Edward Island’s minimum wage will increase by 60 cents to $12.85 per hour on April 1, 2020. With this increase, the province’s minimum wage will remain the highest in Atlantic Canada and the fourth highest in the country. Every year, the P.E. Employment Standards Board reviews the Island’s minimum wage and provides a recommendation to the government after the review is complete.

    Amendments to WCB medical cannabis policy effects in 2020

    Effective December 12, 2019, the Workers Compensation medical cannabis policy is amended to remove medical cannabis treatment for harm reduction and to remove coverage for vapourizers. The amendments also change the definition of medical cannabis and clarify the coverage of medical cannabis costs.

    WCB employer registration renewal reminder

    Each year by February 28, you must renew your registration with the PE Workers Compensation Board. You do so by reporting your actual payroll for the previous year and an estimated payroll for the current year. Late filing may result in arbitrary assessment and penalties.

    Employment Standards Act possible changes in 2020

    On February 11, 2020, the Prince Edward Island government announced that the Employment Standards Comprehensive Review Panel will be responsible for completing a comprehensive review of the Employment Standards Act as well as its associated regulations. The panel will hold two phases of public consultations before writing an interim and final report. The final report will make recommendations on changes to employment standards in the province.

    Provincial emergency response efforts possible changes in 2020

    The Prince Edward Island government is asking the public and interested stakeholders to complete a survey and share their perspective on the provincial response to weather emergencies-including how the province responded to the recent post-tropical storm Dorian-for potential future improvements.

    The survey conducted by Calian Emergency Management Solutions will help identify opportunities for improvement to address future weather and emergency events for the province.

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