Canada Labour Code Amendments

You may be aware that just a couple of months ago, specifically on June 22, 2017, Bill C-44, the Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No.1 received Royal Assent.

This Act makes a number of changes to the Canada Labour Code (the “Code”) that will impact federally regulated employers, both unionized and non-unionized.

Please note that a date has not yet been set for when these changes will become law.


Administrative Monetary Penalties (Added to the Code)

  • Employers can now be penalized for up to and including $250,000 under this section, and any officer, director, agent, or any other person with managerial or supervisory roles can be held liable for the penalty.
  • The specific Code provisions to which these penalties apply, and therefore the specific penalties will be identified in future Regulations.
  • The deadline for issuing a Notice of Violation is 2 years from the day on which the subject-matter of the violation arose.

Complaints Relating to Reprisals (Added to the Code)

  • Employees will be able to file a complaint with the Canada Industrial Relations Board (the “CIRB”) if they believe that the employer has taken reprisals against them for making a complaint pursuant to Part III of the Code, providing information to the Minister, the CIRB, or an inspector in exercising their duties under Part III of the Code, OR testifying in a proceeding or inquiry pursuant to Part III of the Code.
  • Such reprisals include, among other things: dismissing, suspending, laying off or demoting the employee, or imposing a monetary burden or penalty on the employee.
  • The time period for filing a complaint of retaliation is 90 days.

Inspector Orders

  • The authority of inspectors has been expanded. Inspectors will now issue compliance orders if they find an employer has not complied with Code provisions on standard hours, wages, vacations, and holidays.

Internal Audit

  • The Minister of Labour could order an employer to conduct an internal audit of its books, payrolls, and other records to determine whether the employer is in compliance with the Code provisions on standard hours, wages, vacations, and holidays.
  • The Minister may order the audit report to contain any data that the Minister deems appropriate.
  • Once the audit is complete, employers must submit the audit report to the Minister.

Unjust Dismissal

  • Unjust dismissal complaints that are not settled will now be referred to the CIRB, instead of an adjudicator for determination.

Unpaid Leaves of Absence:

Employees with a Newborn or Adopted Child

  • Female employees will be permitted to begin their maternity leave up to 13 weeks before their due date, a 2week increase from the current 11 weeks.
  • Employees will be entitled to take an unpaid leave of absence of up to 63 weeks to care for newborn or adopted children, a big jump from the current 37 weeks.
  • The combined total of maternity and parental leave that one or two employees can take for the same birth or adoption will increase to 78 weeks, a considerable increase from the current 52 weeks.
  • The combined total of parental leave that two employees can take for the same birth or adoption will increase to 63 weeks from the current 37 weeks.

Employees with a Critically Ill Child or Family Member

  • The definition of those eligible to take a leave of absence to care for a critically ill child will be expanded beyond a parent to a family member of a critically ill child. The eligibility period (6 months of continuous employment) and length of absence (37 weeks) will remain the same.
  • Employees who have completed 6 months of continuous employment will be eligible for an unpaid leave of absence of up to 17 weeks to care for or support a critically ill adult family member.

Unpaid Wages Recovery

  • The period for recovering unpaid wages will be extended from 12 to 24 months.

Again, please keep in mind that a date has not yet been set for when these changes will become law.

Supporting Article Research Sources:, Lawson Lundell LLP


Pending EI Changes Under 2017 Canadian Federal Budget

Source: Bing Images,




As you know, last month Canada’s federal government released its 2017 Budget, as detailed in my Budget Highlights article.

The federal government touted the Budget as being particularly family-oriented, and as promoting gender equality and women’s participation in the workplace.

Among the dozens of announced measures in the Budget were a few items affecting Employment Insurance (EI) benefits.

These items will peak interest from employers which stand to be impacted by the following changes expected to be in place by 2018:

  1. Expectant mothers can begin to take EI maternity benefits for up to 12 weeks before their due dates, instead of the current 8 weeks.
  2. Parents will be able to claim EI benefits for up to 18 months as opposed to the current 12 months; but, the total amount of benefits received will be the same (with 12 months’ benefits equal to 55% of EI insurable earnings being extendable to 18 months’ benefits at 33% of EI insurable earnings).
  3. A new EI Caregiving Benefit will be created to give eligible caregivers up to 15 weeks of EI benefits while they are temporarily away from work to support or care for critically ill or injured adult family members. This benefit would be in addition to the existing Compassionate Care Benefit, which applies only where an individual is providing care for a gravely ill family member susceptible to loss of life within 26 weeks.

As a result of these measures, EI premiums are expected to increase for both employees and employers.

Although these measures have been announced, there are a number of details that still need to be ironed out. For federally regulated employers, the Canada Labour Code still needs to be amended to provide for the new leave rules, which the 2017 Budget proposes to do.

For provincially regulated employers (the sizeable majority of employers), it will be up to each province to amend their respective employment standards laws to offer enhanced job-protected leaves of absence that match the extension of benefits proposed in the 2017 Budget.

Most provinces permit a total of 12 months of maternity and parental leave and do not have a general “caregiving” leave, although most provinces have some form of sick leave, family medical leave, or emergency leave. Provincial human rights laws may also require employers to accommodate employees who have family caregiving responsibilities, or face the risk of a “family status” discrimination.


Supporting Article Research Sources: Mondaq, Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart

Alberta: Upcoming Workplace Laws Overhaul (Part 2 of 2)

…Continued from Alberta: Upcoming Workplace Laws Overhaul (Part 1 of 2)

The second and last part of this article focuses on the Labour Relations Code’ impending changes.


Perhaps unsurprisingly, the areas of the Labour Code where the government is contemplating change is geared to enhancing union powers and increasing union involvement in Alberta. Also, any changes are likely to lead to a more robust Alberta Labour Relations Board, in concert with broader legislative changes that will impact all unionized workplaces.

In particular, the government is considering whether to:

  • Mandate a “Rand formula” in collective agreements, which involves the obligatory payment of union dues regardless of a worker’s status (i.e., workers would no longer be able to opt-out of a union and avoid paying union dues where they benefit from the collective agreement);
  • Change the Labour Code’s definition of “employer” and “employee”, which could bind more successor employers to collective agreements;
  • Give employees greater freedom in choosing, changing, or cancelling union representation (i.e., the introduction of a “card check” system);
  • Make certain unfair labour practice allegations are subject to a reverse onus provision, thereby putting the burden on the employer to contest an employee’s accusation;
  • Broaden the Board’s mandate to adjudicate a wider range of workplace disputes;
  • Augment the Board’s power, procedures, and remedial options; and
  • Undertake a general review of the Labour Code to see where Alberta’s labour laws depart from the Canadian mainstream (in a way which the government determines is “without benefit”).


Given that the legislation is due for an update, and the NDP’ orientation towards improved rights for workers and unions, it seems likely that the changes to the Employment Standards and the Labour Code can occur throughout this term of the NDP’s mandate.

The government says these changes are necessary to offer a “family-friendly workplace”. What remains unclear, though, is the extent to which these changes can co-exist with a “business-friendly workplace” since many of the proposed changes tip heavily for employees and unions, while Alberta’s economy remains in a fragile state.


Article Research Sources: Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP, Mondaq

Alberta: Upcoming Workplace Laws Overhaul (Part 1 of 2)

Alberta’s NDP Government to shake up the province’s workplace legislation.

The Employment Standards Code (Employment Standards) and the Labour Relations Code (Labour Code) will be the subject of a brief public consultation (closing April 18, 2017) before the government assumes its review, and rolls out the significant primary changes to Alberta’s workplace laws not seen in decades.

As a matter of interest, Alberta’s workplace laws have remained the same for close to 30 years, while apparently provincial governments elsewhere in Canada have responded more quickly and readily to the changing dynamics of what the face of a modern workforce could, or should be.

Employment Standards and the Labour Code govern everything with respect to the employment relationship in Alberta’s workplaces (outside of federally regulated firms, and in addition to human rights and privacy legislation). The Labour Code regulates union work, and Employment Standards covers the non-union labour market.

The government says the forthcoming changes to Alberta’s workplace laws are actually “modest” and “not a full-scale review“. Still, many employers are most concerned about the consequences, particularly given the NDP’s policies for extending workers’ benefits, in addition to its long-standing union ties.


Employment Standards sets the minimum standards to which employers must adhere, including standards for hours of work and overtime requirements, vacation, maternity and paternity leave, general holidays and termination.

The government has not specified the precise changes it intends to make to Employment Standards. However, based upon a review of the government’s online consultation, employers may see the introduction of all, or any, of the following:

  • An increase in protected leaves (i.e., maternity, parental and compassionate care) and a reduction of employee tenure to realize eligibility for such leaves;
  • The creation of new unpaid protected leaves for personal short-term illness or injury, personal emergencies, and family responsibilities;
  • Changes to align protected leaves with the federal employment insurance program;
  • An increase in the banked overtime rate from 1:1 to 1:1.5 (i.e., employees can receive 1.5 hours of time off for each 1 hour of overtime banked);
  • Changes to the calculation of all compressed work week arrangements;
  • Stricter requirements on employers to give a mandatory paid or unpaid 30-minute break to employees for each five consecutive hours of work;
  • An increase in the instances that employees are entitled to general and Stat holiday pay;
  • Changes to the calculation of employee’s average daily wage;
  • New deductions from employee wages wherever the employee agrees to such deductions and receives a direct benefit in return (i.e., health and insurance packages, pay advances, meals, and lodging);
  • An increase in the opportunities for youth between 13 and 15 to gain employment;
  • New requirements on employers to notify the Minster of Labour when undertaking a group termination of 50 or more employees at one site within a four-week period (i.e., possibly including a notification to the affected employees and unions, not just the Minister); and
  • Enhanced tools for the government to enforce Employment Standards legislation, including the introduction of administrative and progressive penalties, increased fines, greater authority for employment standards officers, and publicly posting firm names that fail to satisfy judgments, or prove ongoing non-compliance.

 Please continue to read Part 2 here. Thank You!

Article Research Sources: Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP, Mondaq

Canada: Bill 26, Accommodation and Paid Leave ~ Domestic Violence



As you may be aware, December 6th marked Canada’s National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence against Women and Girls.


In fact, studies suggest that 54% of domestic and sexual violence victims have confronted abuse at or in near to their place of business, placing significant stressors on performance, attendance, and overall physical and mental health. Naturally, employers also feel the effects of the domestic violence dilemma.

Statistics Canada has said that incidents of domestic violence cost Canadian employers very close to $78 million annually. A new bill aimed at addressing these issues is currently progressing through the Ontario legislature.

If passed, Bill 26 (the Domestic and Sexual Violence Workplace Leave, Accommodation and Training Act, 2016), would amend the Employment Standards Act, 2000 [the “ESA“], allowing employees to take up to 10 days of paid leave per year if they, or their children, are victims of domestic or sexual violence. Although this pay may well be capped at 10 days, employees would be entitled to leaves of a “reasonable length” to seek medical attention, psychological counselling, community services, and/or legal assistance. Employees would also be entitled to take time off work to relocate, where the purpose of such relocation is to reduce the chance of future violence.

Employers would also be required to offer impacted employees with reasonable accommodation, such as reduced work hours, schedule modifications, or changes to the place of work. As is the standard elsewhere in the ESA, employers would only be required to accommodate up to the point of undue hardship.

Bill 26 also proposes amendments to the Occupational Health and Safety Act. The proposed changes could require that managers, supervisors, and workers take part in mandatory training on the warning signs, impacts, and risks of domestic and sexual violence in the workplace.

On October 20, 2016, Bill 26 passed second reading with the unanimous support of the Ontario legislature. It has now been referred to the Standing Committee on the Legislative Assembly.


Supporting Article Research Sources: Norton Rose FullbrightMondaq






Is Santa Coming to Your Workplace? Bonuses and Christmas Gifts for Employees


Perhaps no one is openly talking about it, but employees at all levels are surely thinking about it – what will this year’s Christmas gift or bonus be?

Whether it’s a holiday-season gift or a bonus, employee expectations may be high for 2016. However, I think it would be interesting to witness what the consequences would be if, one year, employers decided to bypass gifts and bonuses altogether – what do you think?

Is there a chance that your own employer might be feeling that their past generosity has become more similar to an obligation or simply an employee expectation, regardless of performance levels?


Types of Bonuses

A bonus paid to an employee is of course, over and above his or her regular salary, and can take many forms.

First of all, year after year, an employer might offer an automatic bonus of a fixed amount that is not subject to the performance of the employee, or of the employer’s business. A bonus can also be paid on a purely discretionary basis as the employer sees fit.

Lastly, the parameters for payment of the bonus may be predetermined according to criteria established by the employer, with or without the participation of its employees. However, employees are aware of the criteria, which is usually related to the operating results of the business, or to the employee’s individual performance.

Legal Framework

There is no set legislation on bonuses although, depending on the circumstances, they may be considered part of an employee’s overall compensation. They are instead governed by the contractual framework. Their amounts, criteria, and the recurrence of payment may constitute employment conditions in an individual employment contract or in a collective agreement. A company policy may also establish the bonus framework for all employees, or for different classes of employees. Finally, a constant and recurring bonus mechanism known to all employees may also be considered to be a legal framework.

Modification or Termination of the Bonus

An employer may, for a variety of reasons, wish to curtail the distribution of bonuses during the holiday season. Its right to do so directly depends on the legal framework governing their distribution, as noted above.

Therefore, if the granting of a bonus is provided for in an individual employment contract, it may be deemed as an essential condition of the contract, depending of course on the amount. In such cases, the principles of constructive dismissal may eventually come into play. Before modifying the bonus criteria, or doing away with the bonus altogether, the employer should notify the employees concerned. The length of the prior notice period will depend on the circumstances, the characteristics, and the number of years of service of the affected employee(s).

This reasoning may also apply where the bonus is provided for in a company policy. Close examination of the terms of that policy will be necessary, however, as often the employer will have already provided for the possibility of unilaterally making changes to the bonus. Even so, depending on the amounts involved, this latitude on the part of the employer cannot, however, go so far as to constitute an abuse of right.

On the other hand, if the payment of and the criteria for the bonus are provided for in a collective agreement, the employer will not be able to make changes unilaterally, unless of course the collective agreement or another union agreement gives it permission to do so.

Bonuses and Termination of Employment

Can a dismissed employee claim his or her Christmas bonus then?

The answer to this question depends on the type of bonus involved, and on whether or not the dismissal was justified. If it was justified, the employee cannot claim the bonus given to the other employees following his or her dismissal.

Conversely, in certain circumstances, an employee dismissed without cause may be entitled to such a bonus. For example, if the bonus is clearly provided for in the employment contract and its payment is automatic, the dismissed employee can include it in his or her claim for payment in lieu of reasonable prior notice.

However, the dismissed employee will normally not be entitled to a bonus if the payment of it was purely discretionary. Moreover, the employee will have no such entitlement where the evidence shows that the bonus payment criterion was not met.


The kinds of gifts employers can give employees during the holiday season, from the traditional Christmas card to a more lavish frozen turkey, are limited only by their imagination.

And whether this generosity on the employer’s part is new, or solidly entrenched in company tradition, can the employer randomly decide one year to be less generous?

In a non-unionized context, generally speaking, a Christmas gift from an employer is seen as a gesture of gratitude, offered on a discretionary basis, without producing any obligation on the part of the employer.

Handing out bonuses, and/or gifts during the holiday season is a generous gesture on the part of an employer, and most certainly, appreciated by its employees. The benefits are far from negligible insofar as human capital management is concerned, as it tends to foster a sense of belonging among employees, with what could be described as a bonding effect at this special time of year. Having said that, close attention should be given to such an act of generosity. After all, employers should not feel an irrevocable obligation to give either but rather, have this action remain a genuine token of appreciation for staff efforts, versus the perception that it is, or has become, some kind of binding duty.


Supporting Article Research Sources: Langlois Lawyers, LLP, Mondaq





Deck the Halls with a Few Facts on Stat Holidays in BC


It is the season once again when employers will be dealing with the frustrating intricacies of setting Stat holiday hours for their staff calendar and calculating the associated pay for their efforts. But what happens when primary Stats like Christmas fall on a regular day off, such as the weekend?

Well, as it happens, this year Christmas Day falls on a Sunday, Boxing Day follows on Monday, and New Years’ Day the following Sunday.

So, here is a reminder of some key points you may want to review with respect to employee entitlements under the BC Employment Standards Act.

Do employees automatically get Christmas Day, Boxing Day, and New Years’ Day off of work? Actually, No:

  • Christmas Day and New Years’ Day are Stat holidays in BC. However, while traditionally given as a holiday to many employees, Boxing Day is not a Stat holiday in BC (it is in Ontario, as well as for federally regulated entities);
  • There is no obligation to provide a day off in lieu of the Statutory Christmas Day and New Years’ Day holiday when it falls on a weekend;
  • Employers are able to enter into agreements with specific employees to substitute a different day for a Stat holiday;
  • Employers may also come to an agreement with a majority of its employees to substitute a different day for a Stat holiday; and
  • When an employee is given the day off for a Stat holiday, OR if the Stat falls on a regular day off (such as with Christmas Day in 2016 and this New Years’ Day in 2017), the employee is still entitled to Stat holiday pay.

Are all employees entitled to Stat Holiday pay? Generally, Yes, but with caveats:

  • All employees (full and part-time) are treated the same for Stat holiday pay purposes; and
  • Employees are only entitled to Stat holiday pay if they have worked OR earned wages in 15 of the 30 calendar days prior to the Stat unless the employees worked under an averaging agreement at any time during the 30 days preceding the holiday, in which case the employees are entitled to holiday pay even if they did not meet the 15-day threshold for that statutory holiday.

How do you calculate the pay entitlement? Depends if employees worked on the Stat:

  • Any employee who does not work on a Stat holiday must be paid an “average day’s pay.” That amount is calculated by dividing the amount the employee has been paid during the 30 days preceding the Stat (including vacation pay, LESS amounts paid or payable for OT) by the number of days the employee worked within that same 30-day period; and

Any employee who does work on a Stat holiday must be paid 1.5 times their regular wage for time worked on the Stat up to 12 hours, and 2 times their regular wage for time worked on the Stat over 12 hours PLUS 1 average day’s pay calculated using the formula outlined above.



Supporting Article Research Sources: Bull, Housser & Tupper LLP, Mondaq



Canada: The Top 12 Employment Contract Terms


A well drafted and executed written employment contract can be useful in avoiding or resolving disputes during the employment relationship as well as when it ends – saving employers both time and money in either case.

Written Employment Contracts

Each employer has an employment contract with each employee – despite the fact that there is no supporting physical evidence of such (“nothing in writing”). There are many advantages to a well-drafted and carried out written employment contract, the ultimate advantage being notably fewer disputes and a significant reduction in the associated time and costs for the employer.

Readability & Comprehension

An employment contract that clearly sets out all the terms will help in fending off disputes later. And, since employment relationships are (or at least use to be) intended to last a long time, and human memories are fallible, a written employment contract ensures all the details, and occasionally complex arrangements are clearly and accurately recorded.


In contrast to different “commercial” contracts, courts interpret employment contracts with an eye to protecting the employee. Consequently, they scrutinize employment contract terms intently, typically deciding any ambiguities in opposition the employer’s interest.


The standard form employment agreement is useful, but employers need to continually review it and, if required, customize it to suit particular circumstances. That said, there are some terms that essentially each employment contract needs to include. Here are the top 12 terms.

  1. Entire Agreement Clause. Another “legalese” clause that could make a difference in a dispute, this clause states that the written agreement is the entire agreement, and supersedes any earlier agreements – oral or written, drafts or final – the employer and employee might previously have made about the contract’s subject. This is in order to avoid both from claiming there are other contract terms in addition to those within the written contract.
  2. Fixed Term. If the employment contract is for a fixed term, make that clear, and specify the notice to which the employee is entitled upon early termination of the contract – or risk paying the remaining balance of the term.
  3. Independent Legal Advice. Include a clause in which the employee acknowledges he/she had the opportunity to seek independent legal advice on the contract. Be sure you give your employee time to consider the contract and to get that legal advice before signing.
  4. Non-Solicitation/Non-Compete. Employers are exposed to a financial loss while an ex-employee solicits his/her former employer’s clients and/or personnel. Employers can often protect their interests by way of imposing post-employment obligations on employees restricting or limiting their capacity to compete and/or to solicit clients and employees. However, public policy discourages such restraint of trade generally, and such obligations can affect the employee’s ability to earn a livelihood. Courts intently scrutinize them and refuse to enforce them unless the employer can prove they protect a valid proprietary interest of the organization, and are reasonable in terms of duration, geographic scope, and the nature of the activities prohibited. The key here is to apply clear and unambiguous language and not to invite more than is clearly necessary to protect the employer’s interests.
  5. Obsolescence Clause. An “obsolescence clause” is intended to make certain the employment agreement will continue to be relevant and enforceable no matter how long it lasts, and even if the employment relationship fundamentally changes between the date the contract is signed and the date the employment relationship ends.
  6. Permitted/Prohibited Activities. An employer does not automatically have cause to terminate a “moonlighting” employee without notice or pay-in-lieu of notice. Make it clear whether the employee is permitted to undertake other activities – for pay, or without pay (such as charitable work) – during his/her employment, or whether he/she must devote all the time to the job, and other activities (or certain ones) are either completely off-limits, or require the employer’s consent ahead of time.
  7. Probationary Period. Including a period of probation to decide whether the candidate is suitable for employment can be of value to the employer. A probationary clause states the employer can terminate the employee’s employment during a specified probationary period without notice or cause. However, it is important to note there that in order for it to be enforceable, the clause must comply with the minimum notice period under Employment Standards legislation.
  8. Protection of Intellectual Property, Confidentiality & Non-Disclosure. Intellectual property (IP) and confidential information, such as market research, financials, and proprietary client information, can be an employer’s biggest asset.
  9. Remedies for Breach of Confidentiality. The normal resolution from a court is monetary compensation. Employers should include a clause specifying the employee’s liability for monetary compensation for breach of his/her obligations, but the contract should also state that this is insufficient and that the employer and employee contemplated and accepted an injunction (a court order to stop doing something) and/or specific performance (a court order to do something) if the employee breached his/her confidentiality obligations.
  10. Resignation Notice Clause. Employers often require senior executives to give notice of resignation in order to deal with difficulty in recruiting or replacing a specialized skills position and ensure a smooth transition. The resignation notice is often considered a moral obligation and most employers do not act on such a clause – but it IS enforceable.
  11. Severability Clause. One of those “legalese” clauses that can save the day, states that any legally unenforceable terms or phrases of the employment contract are severed from the contract without affecting the enforceability of any of the other contract terms. For instance, it could operate to sever an unenforceable probationary clause – and leave an otherwise enforceable termination clause standing.
  12. Termination Clause. A “termination clause” is meant to displace an employee’s entitlement to “reasonable notice” of termination without cause through specifically setting out the employee’s notice entitlement. The law generally presumes that an employer can terminate a contract of “indefinite duration” (as opposed to one for a fixed term) without cause by giving the employee “reasonable notice” (Note: The employment standards legislation of some provinces requires cause for termination of employees with more than a specified length of service; seek out the guidelines for your province to ensure compliance). An enforceable termination clause – one that uses clear, unambiguous language expressly specifying some other period of notice and complies with employment standards legislation – offers both the employee and the employer certainty.


Supporting Article Research Sources: McInnes Cooper, Mondaq





Canada: Dealing with a Global Workforce across Multiple Jurisdictions

Progressively, our BC employers are looking abroad to attract international talent into their workforces. Whether those employees are newly hired or are transferred from global affiliates or parent companies, commonplace problems arise when an employer’s workforce becomes global in scope.

Gowling WLG employment and labour law attorneys delved into jurisdictional issues that arise in managing personnel from distinctive countries, and across multiple provinces.

On November 17, 2016, the Gowling WLG employment and labour legal team presented a number of the most common and pressing issues you are likely to be challenged with, including:

  • Hiring Temporary Foreign Workers (TFWs): Who is eligible, and how long can you employ them?
  • Drafting Employment Agreements for Temporary Foreign Workers (TFWs) and workers who function in multiple jurisdictions.
  • What happens when a dispute arises with either a TFW or operating in a multi-jurisdictional setting?
  • Best practices for handling terminations.

The video below highlights these key points, as well as other issues that can arise splendidly, and I wish to share it with you now. Please click on the image below, which directly links you to this presentation.

Specifically, the following topics are addressed from a legal perspective:

  • Medical Marijuana in the Workplace
  • Changing language in your Bonus Plans
  • Hiring a Foreign Worker
  • Managing your Global Workforce

For further information or clarification on this subject, please contact the Employment Law experts at Gowling WLG directly. Thank You.










Supporting Article Research Sources: Gowling WLG,  Mondaq.








Canada: Mentally Ill Employees Are Facing Discrimination


Recently a Canadian Ombudsman was tasked with investigating claims that employees suffering from mental illness may be denied benefits, according to a recent report. While these claims originated in Ontario, the discrimination investigation could make noticeable major changes for provincial standards in handling mental illness in the workplace in Alberta as well. The complaint was submitted to the Ombudsman on November 10, 2016.

The claim states that the Workplace Safety Insurance Board (‘WSIB’, aka WorkSafe BC across BC, and Worker’s Compensation Board in Alberta) may be denying benefits in select cases of mental illness within certain fields.

While the government has instituted laws that have enhanced protection of the rights of employees who have been faced with considerable mental trauma within the workplace, sometimes leading to post-traumatic stress disorder, employees who experience similar conditions as a result of ongoing harassment have no such rights. Presently, the WSIB does not have to compensate workers for chronic mental stress injuries.

Subsequently, those tormented by these conditions have been forced into litigation against their employers; occasionally a costly and lengthy process, that, unfortunately, does not guarantee their compensation once the case is closed.

The complaint goes on to allege that the government has done nothing to plug this appalling legislative loophole. This comes on the heels of an unprecedented 20% upsurge in independent complaints launched against the WSIB in 2016.

Workplace harassment is notably an issue in Alberta, (as with BC) that litigators have worked hard to mitigate. However, managing the discrimination faced by the victims of harassment is a much taller order.

Fortunately, legal support exists for employees who feel they are not being properly represented or supported in the workplace. Seeking out that support is a critical step in improving workplace conditions across the country.

A Few Interesting Facts on Mental Illness:

  • Mental illness indirectly affects all Canadians at some time through a family member, friend or colleague.
  • 20% of Canadians will personally experience a mental illness in their lifetime.
  • Mental illness affects people of all ages, educational and income levels, and cultures.
  • Approximately 8% of adults will experience major depression at some time in their lives.
  • About 1% of Canadians will experience bipolar disorder (or “manic depression”).


Please also read the Toronto Star article at the convenient link provided for you below. Thank You.


Supporting Article Research Sources: Ridout Barron, Toronto Star, Mondaq