Bill 176 modifying the labor standards: significant impacts for employers

March 22nd, 2018

Backgrounder on Bill 176, An Act to amend the Act respecting labour standards and other legislative provisions mainly to facilitate family-work balance.

On March 20, 2018, Ms. Dominique Vien, minister responsible for Labour, tabled in National Assembly the Bill 176 in order to make several amendments to the Act respecting labour standards. Those amendments, if adopted, will have a significant impact in many provincial jurisdiction companies doing business in Quebec.

Here is a summary of the changes currently proposed by the government that deserve special attention:

  • The employer would be prohibited from granting a lower rate of pay to employees who perform the same tasks in the same establishment solely because of their employment status (eg., full time vs. part time). The ban would exist even if the employees earn a rate higher than twice the minimum wage.

  • A personnel placement agency would not be allowed to pay a rate of pay lower than that paid to employees of the client enterprise who perform the same tasks in the establishment solely because of their employment status.

  • For employees who are not subject to a collective agreement or a decree, it would be possible to schedule working hours on a non-weekly basis without the authorization of the CNESST. However, very specific conditions would apply.

  • An employee may refuse to work more than two hours beyond his normal daily hours, as opposed to four hours currently.

  • An employee may also refuse to work overtime when he has not been informed at least five days in advance that he would be required to work, except where the nature of his tasks requires him to be available.

  • An employee who has three years of continuous service (instead of five at present) with the same employer would be entitled to at least three weeks of vacation per year.

  • To qualify for sick leave of up to 26 weeks over a 12-month period, the employee would no longer be required to have at least three months of continuous service with the employer.

  • In the case of an employee with at least three months of continuous service, the employer should pay him or her the first two days of sick leave.

  • The law would expand the concept of “employee’s relative” and recognize that of caregiver when an employee must be absent from work to fulfill his obligations in one or other of these cases.

  • The law would be amended to increase the duration of unpaid leaves of absence allowed in a number of circumstances (eg., on the occasion of the death of a child, the suicide of the spouse, etc.).

  • An employee who is absent to help a relative or who acts as a caregiver would see his employer being obliged to pay him his first two days of absence. It would be the same, without further restrictions, upon the death of certain relatives of importance to the employee or the birth or adoption of a child.

  • For further clarification, the notion of sexual harassment would be added to the definition of psychological harassment.

  • Every employer would be obliged to adopt and make available to its employees a policy of prevention of psychological harassment and a complaint processing policy in such a matter.

  • Any distinction made solely on the basis of a hiring date, in relation to pension plans or other employee benefits, that affects employees performing the same tasks in the same establishment would be prohibited. However, these distinctions existing before the date of entry into force of the law would not be banned.

  • In addition, a particular recourse would be available to employees who consider that they are covered by a prohibited distinction clause with regard to pension plans or other employee benefits.

  • To operate a personnel placement agency or a temporary foreign worker recruitment agency, a license issued by CNESST would be required under conditions to be set by a regulation of government.

  • Any employer who knowingly does business with any of these types of agencies that do not have the required license issued by CNESST would face a fine of $ 600 to $ 6,000 or $ 1,200 to $ 12,000 for any subsequent conviction.

  • The personnel placement agency and the client enterprise would be solidarily liable for the pecuniary obligations fixed by the law and its regulations (for example: payment of wages, holidays, etc.).

BCF team will carefully monitor the adoption process of Bill 176 and inform you of significant changes that may be made along the way, as appropriate.