Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade


Highlights Responsibility Human Rights, Fair Employment Practices and Labour Codes
Statutory Employment Standards Pensions Employment Insurance (EI)
Workers' Compensation Occupational Safety and Health Fringe Benefits
Unions, Collective Bargaining and Industrial Relations Apprenticeship and Trade Qualifications Foreign Personnel

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Unless otherwise specified, all currency is in Canadian dollars.

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Although the Parliament of Canada and provincial legislatures both have the power to enact labour laws, provincial governments are primarily responsible for labour legislation. Federal authority is limited to the following industries:

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Human Rights, Fair Employment Practices and Labour Codes

Human rights provisions, fair employment practices, equal pay and anti-discrimination laws are all embodied in the federal and provincial human rights legislation as well as in labour legislation. Discrimination by race, religion, colour, creed, sex, age or other factors is prohibited. All jurisdictions require employers to pay men and women equally for the same work.
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Statutory Employment Standards

The minimum wage, minimum working age, hours of work, vacation pay, maternity and parental leave, and notification of termination of employment are governed by provincial statutes and, in industries under the authority of the federal government, by the Canada Labour Code.

Minimum Wage

All jurisdictions have enacted minimum wage legislation. Rates for experienced adult workers vary according to jurisdiction and currently range between $5 and $7 per hour. Some jurisdictions establish special rates which apply to students, young workers, trainees, farm workers, domestics and various other classes of employees. The federal government's minimum wage is set at the rate for adults in the province in which a federally regulated operation is located.

Table 1. Minimum Wage Rates by Jurisdiction, 1997
$5.00 ($5.25 as of 1 April 1997)
Prince Edward Island
$5.15 ($5.40 as of 1 April 1997)
Nova Scotia
New Brunswick
British Columbia
Northwest Territories
*$7.00 in areas distant from the NWT highway system.

Minimum Working Age

As with wages, each jurisdiction sets a minimum working age. The Canada Labour Code and various provincial employment standards acts, safety acts, education acts and welfare acts establish minimum working ages according to the type of work to be performed.

Hours of Work

Standards governing the work day and work week establish the maximum hours for which regular wages can be paid. Provisions for standard hours of work per day and per week are legislated in each of the provinces and territories and in the Canada Labour Code. With some exceptions, additional work time must be paid as overtime at stated rates. At least one rest day must be scheduled per week.

Annual Vacations and Statutory Holidays

Legislation in most of the provinces and territories, as well as in the Canada Labour Code, provides for a minimum of two weeks' annual vacation (three weeks after a number of years of service). Vacation pay is generally set at a minimum of 4 percent of annual earnings for two weeks, with another 2 percent added for each week of vacation entitlement.

In addition, federal, provincial and territorial legislation sets out a minimum number of statutory holidays, which range in number from 6 to 10, depending on the jurisdiction.

Maternity and Parental Leave

Legislation in all jurisdictions provides unpaid maternity and parental leaves varying from 17 to 52 weeks. Requirements for leave vary from province to province. In most cases, an employee is entitled to take such a leave when warranted, often based on a specified period of continuous employment by the same company, and to job security for the duration of the leave. In most jurisdictions, employees can also claim unpaid adoption leave.

Notification of Employment Termination

Employees may be terminated for cause, such as incompetence or incapacity. As well, layoffs can occur due to lack of business, reorganization or redundancy. Termination may be subject to legal interpretation and argument.

The Canada Labour Code and labour legislation in all provinces and territories require that the employer give notice of termination to individuals. In many provinces, the employee is under an equal obligation to notify the employer before quitting. Advance notice of projected layoffs of groups of employees is required in all Canadian jurisdictions except Alberta and Prince Edward Island.
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Enacted in 1966, the Canada Pension Plan provides workers and their families with a basic level of income protection in the event of retirement, disability or death. Paid workers between the ages of 18 and 70 have access to the plan, regardless of location or occupation. Quebec has a separate, comparable plan.

The plan works through a system of contributions and benefits. Each time an employee is paid, 2.925 percent of the salary, up to a yearly maximum ($945 in 1997), is deducted at source by the employer and entered into the plan. The employer contributes a matching amount. At age 65, the employee is eligible to receive benefits, even though he or she may still be working. Alternatively, the employee may opt to defer benefits to age 70 and continue to contribute. After age 70, no further contributions can be made.
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Employment Insurance (EI)

On 1 July 1996 the federal government adopted a new Employment Insurance Act. The act is designed to strengthen work incentives and to help workers adjust to economic change. The act also recognizes provincial responsibility for labour market training and allows for new partnerships to be created with provinces so that duplication is eliminated.

There are four basic changes to the income benefits portion of the new EI system:

The act also introduces new "employment benefits" to help the unemployed get jobs. These include such programs as self-employment assistance and job creation partnerships. The National Employment Service has also been improved with online job-matching services and an automated job-market information service.
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Workers' Compensation

All jurisdictions have workers' compensation programs and funds to provide benefits for workers suffering job-related injuries and diseases. These funds are supported by the employer at compulsory rates set for each industry and situation by the various provincial Workers' Compensation Boards. Workers or dependents entitled to compensation cannot take legal action against the employer.
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Occupational Safety and Health

All jurisdictions have legislation, procedures and measures to promote and ensure occupational safety and health (OSH). Inspections of construction sites, industrial plants and other potentially hazardous sites are carried out by the various provincial, territorial and federal authorities to ensure that safety and health standards are being met.
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Fringe Benefits

Canadian businesses commonly provide non-legislated fringe benefits to their employees. These could include insurance plans, supplementary health and dental care plans, as well as continuation plans such as long-term disability.
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Unions, Collective Bargaining and Industrial Relations

Canadian employees are permitted to join unions for the purpose of bargaining collectively with their employers on issues concerning wage rates, fringe benefits and other working conditions.

Federal and provincial labour relations acts and labour codes contain regulations with respect to collective bargaining. Labour codes in all jurisdictions guarantee the right to representation by a trade union following a certification process outlined in legislation. The various jurisdictions administer their respective acts mainly through labour relations boards, in addition to the respective agencies which provide mediation and conciliation assistance to those parties involved in labour disputes.

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Apprenticeship and Trade Qualifications

All provinces have programs for the training and certification of specific tradespeople. The majority of training takes place on the job, and for several weeks each year apprentices attend technical training classes to learn principles, concepts and techniques, as well as the skills and practices of their trade. Programs may last for up to four years, depending upon jurisdictional requirements.
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Foreign Personnel

Non-residents may undertake temporary work assignments once they have obtained an employment authorization. The prospective Canadian employer is responsible for obtaining this document. For a temporary offer to be approved, employers must demonstrate that they are unable to locate a qualified, available Canadian citizen or landed immigrant for the job.

© Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade,
December 1996