As we ring in the new year, there are a number of legislative changes that will take effect, impacting workplaces across Canada. Below are the significant changes taking effect by January 1, 2022.
Increase to the Federal Minimum Wage
Effective December 29, 2021, the minimum wage for the federally regulated private sector increased to $15.00 per hour. The Government of Canada announced this wage increase on April 19, 2021. According to the government, the wages of approximately 26,000 employees have increased as a result of this change. Some of the sectors impacted include:
- postal and courier services;
- telecommunications; and
- most federal agencies.
The government will adjust the federal minimum wage every April to address inflation.
Employers in these industry groups may want to keep in mind that impacted employees earning a provincial or territorial minimum wage greater than $15.00 per hour are entitled to the higher wage rate.
British Columbia: Introduction of Five Paid Sick Days
Effective January 1, 2022, employees in British Columbia will have access to five paid sick days per year. To be eligible, employees must be covered by British Columbia’s Employment Standards Act, and they must have worked for their employers for a minimum of 90 days.
Employees will now have up to eight days of sick leave per year in total: five paid days and three unpaid days to be used for illness or injury. These days will not carry over to future years, and employers may request “reasonably sufficient proof of illness.” Though employers are entitled to request proof of illness, in some circumstances the request may not be reasonable.
The reasonableness of a request can be assessed based on:
- the duration of the employee’s absence;
- a pattern of absences;
- the availability of the proof; and
- the cost associated with the proof.
In cases where the employer’s request is not reasonable, the employee might not have to provide proof of illness.
British Columbia employers may also want to note the following:
- Full-time, part-time, temporary, and casual employees are covered by the Employment Standards Act and may be eligible for these sick days.
- Employees are not required to take these sick days consecutively.
- Employees must be paid an average day’s pay during their sick leave. To calculate the average, employers are required to use the 30 calendar days leading up to the first sick day.
Saskatchewan: Amendments to The Saskatchewan Employment Act
On January 1, 2022, amendments to The Saskatchewan Employment Act, 2021, will take effect, which will make the following changes:
- Workplace harassment, including sexual harassment, prohibitions will now protect independent contractors, students, and volunteers.
- “Supervisory employees” will now have access to collective bargaining, whereas previously they were presumptively excluded from bargaining units that included employees they supervise.
- Mandatory vaccination policies will need to include an option for employees to provide negative COVID-19 test results every seven days, as an alternative to vaccination.
Currently, Saskatchewan’s COVID-19 vaccination regulations allow employees to choose between providing proof of a negative COVID-19 test every seven days, or providing proof of full vaccination. These regulations apply to public employers and to provincially regulated private sector employers that voluntarily implement vaccination policies. To protect these employers from liability, legislators have added a provision to the act covering employers that have complied with the COVID-19 vaccination regulations.
Ontario: Increase to the Minimum Wage
In November 2021, the Government of Ontario announced an increase to the minimum wage effective January 1, 2022. The minimum wage increases are summarized below.
|Employees||Current Hourly Wage||Proposed Hourly Wage|
|General minimum wage||$14.35||$15.00|
|Students under the age of 18||$13.50||$14.10|
|Homeworkers (i.e., individuals who work from their personal residences)||$15.80||$16.50|
|Hunting and fishing guides||$71.75 for working less than five consecutive hours in one day||$75.00 for working less than five consecutive hours in one day|
|$143.55 for working five or more hours in one day||$150.05 for working five or more hours in one day|
As these changes take effect, employers may want to verify whether they will impact their workplaces and adjust their policies and practices accordingly. Employers that are not affected may still find it important to note the trends in Canadian employment legislation because some of these changes may be implemented in their own provinces in the near future. Specifically, both New Brunswick and Nova Scotia are set to raise their minimum wage in 2022.