Q1 Workplace Law Update
The first quarter of 2023 has brought several interesting updates to the area of workplace law.
This article focuses on the legislative updates that stand to have the greatest impact on BC employers and employees: the adoption of the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation as a provincial statutory holiday; the implementation of pay transparency legislation; and the significant upcoming amendments to the Workers Compensation Act (British Columbia).
Adoption of National Day for Truth and Reconciliation as a Provincial Statutory Holiday
On March 9, 2023, BC’s proposed legislation to make the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation a provincial statutory holiday received royal assent. This means employers will be required to provide employees with a paid day off work or additional wages as set out in the Employment Standards Act (British Columbia) every year on September 30th.
The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation is currently a federal holiday implemented in response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Call to Action #80:
We call upon the federal government, in collaboration with Aboriginal peoples, to establish, as a statutory holiday, a National Day for Truth and Reconciliation to honour Survivors, their families, and communities, and ensure that public commemoration of the history and legacy of residential schools remains a vital component of the reconciliation process. (Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada 9).
Once recognized by the province, the holiday will provide BC workers with the opportunity to honour and acknowledge the children, families, and communities affected by residential schools. BC workers are encouraged to use the day to attend public and private commemorative events, listen to the teachings of residential school survivors, and educate themselves on the histories and cultures of Indigenous Peoples in Canada.
Information about Indigenous-led events can be found on National Indigenous Organizations’ websites, such as the Orange Shirt Day website, the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation website, the Assembly of First Nations website, the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami website, and the Métis National Council website.
Pay Transparency Legislation
In light of the fact that female employees earned 17% less than male employees in BC last year, a new Pay Transparency Act was introduced on March 7, 2023, which aims to close the gender wage gap by placing requirements on employers to address systemic discrimination in the workplace.
The new legislation creates a Director of Pay Transparency role to help employers comply with their obligations, manage the intake of employer non-compliance reports, and prepare annual and other relevant reports.
Under the new legislation, employers will be prohibited from asking applicants how much they earned in previous roles and from penalizing employees who inquire about their pay, reveal their pay to other employees or prospective employees, or give information to the Director of Pay Transparency about their employer. Employers will also be required to include the expected pay or pay range for each job opportunity advertised publicly, and employers above a certain size will be required to complete post pay transparency reports. Reporting requirements will apply to employers with 1,000 employees or more on November 1, 2024, to employers with 300 employees or more on November 1, 2025, and to employers with 50 employees or more on November 1, 2026.
Visit Statistics Canada’s website to learn more about gender wage gaps in BC and across Canada.
Updates to the Workers Compensation Act
As certain amendments to the Workers Compensation Act (British Columbia) (the “WCA”) come into effect in the coming months, employers and WorkSafeBC will soon have heightened responsibilities when it comes to accommodating injured employees.
As of April 3, 2023, the WCA will require WorkSafeBC to pay interest on unpaid benefit payments following a review or appeal in situations where the benefits have remained unpaid for at least 180 days from the effective date and allow parties to request the assistance and advice of independent health professionals at the Workers’ Compensation Appeal Tribunal.
On May 1, 2023, the Fair Practices Commissioner position will be established. The role of the Fair Practices Commissioner will be to advise the Board on matters of fairness, including systemic fairness and the resolution of complaints.
In addition, the legislation will eventually impose a legal duty on workers and employers to cooperate in the injured worker’s early and safe return to work. In the event that provisions of the WCA related to the duty to cooperate and the duty to maintain employment conflict with the terms of a collective bargaining agreement, the WCA will take precedent over the terms of the collective bargaining agreement to the extent that it affords the employee a greater benefit than the term of the collective agreement, but not to the extent that it displaces a term of the collective agreement that deals with seniority. In relation to this, employers should take note of the administrative penalties introduced by Bill 41. Employers who fail to uphold their duty to cooperate under the WCA may face an administrative penalty of up to the maximum wage rate determined under section 209 of the WCA. The current maximum wage rate is $112, 800.
These legislative amendments represent greater protections and fairness for BC employees who are injured on the job and bring BC’s workers compensation laws more in line with those of other provinces, such as Ontario and Alberta.
If you have any questions about how recent or upcoming legislative changes will affect you, please contact our Workplace Law Group.