Your Rights as a Worker in B.C.
Are you, or someone you know, being exploited by an employer? Have you been fired, suspended, or let go? In many instances, employers don’t understand or abide by the minimal protections that are owed to workers in BC.
Employers in BC are required (at minimum) to respect a very basic level of rights and to adhere to certain laws. Most of these are set out in the Employment Standards Act as well as the Human Rights Code of BC. No employer can ask you to waive your rights. If you are being treated unfairly, or your employer is breaking the rules, get in touch with us. We are here to fight for what is right, fair, and just for workers. Below are some basics, broken down into 6 categories; wages, scheduling, benefits, health and safety, treatment at work, and workplace justice.
- The minimum wage in BC is $10.85 ($9.60 for liquor servers) as of September 15, 2016.
- Wages must be paid in Canadian currency. Wages can be paid in cash, by cheque, bank draft or money order, or by direct deposit to your bank account if you agree in writing.
- Your employer must pay you all outstanding wages at least twice a month. A pay period cannot be longer than 16 days, and you must receive payment within 8 days of the end of the pay period.
- Employers must provide a written pay stub each pay day that gives you all the details about hours worked, rate(s) of pay, earnings and deductions. Your employer must keep all payroll records for a minimum of 2 years after your employment ends.
- Your employer cannot withhold your wages for breakage, dine and dash, or as punishment for poor work performance.
- If your employment is terminated by your employer then you are entitled to receive all outstanding wages within 48 hours. If you quit your job your employer must pay you all outstanding wages within 6 days.
- An employer cannot pass on the costs of doing business to an employee. An employee cannot be required to pay for samples, sales kits or demonstration products used in the course of employment.
- Wage theft includes coming in early off of the clock or being asked to stay late but not paid for it.
- If your employer or management team collects and distributes gratuities, they should be taxed and should appear on your pay stub.. Gratuities that are distributed within the staff are not insurable earnings and it is up to you to claim them on your income taxes.
- In your first 3 months of work your employer can terminate your employment without giving you notice or paying you severance. This is often known as a probationary period.
- If you report for work you must be paid for at least two hours, even if you work less than that or in the case where you are sent home without working at all. If you report for work and are scheduled for more than eight hours of work in a shift, you must be paid a minimum of 4 hours, even if you work less than that or even in the case that you are sent home without working at all.
- Daily overtime pay is time-and-a-half after 8 hours worked in a day and double time after 12 hours worked in a day. Weekly overtime is time-and-a-half after 40 hours worked in a week. Only the first eight hours worked in a day count towards weekly overtime.
- If over 50% of your shifts are cut (averaged over 8 weeks) you are eligible for severance.
- Employers are required to provide the following unpaid leaves: Pregnancy Leave, Parental Leave, Family responsibility Leave, Compassionate Care Leave, and Bereavement Leave++.
- You are entitled to an uninterrupted 30 minutes unpaid break every 5 hours of work. If you are expected to work or be available for work during the 30 minutes then your employer must pay you for this time.
- A split shift must be completed within 12 hours of when the shift started.
- An employee must have at least 32 hours in a row free from work each week. If an employee works during this period, he or she must be paid time-and-a-half for all hours worked. This means that an employee who works seven days in a week must be paid time-and-a-half for one of the days, even if the employee worked less than 40 hours in total. The employer may pay time-and-a-half on the day with the least number of hours.
- An employee is entitled to have eight hours off between shifts unless required to work because of an emergency.
- To qualify for statutory holiday pay employees must have been employed for at least 30 calendar days, and have worked on at least 15 of the 30 days before the statutory holiday.
- Daily overtime pay is time-and-a-half after eight hours worked in a day and double time after 12 hours worked in a day.
- If your employer requires you to wear a uniform or special clothing, then the employer must provide the clothing and maintain the clothing at no cost to you. Employers and employees can agree that the employer will reimburse employees for cleaning and maintaining the special clothing. A dress code (no jeans, no cut-offs, dark clothing, business casual) is not typically considered a uniform.
- You are entitled to an uninterrupted, unpaid break every 5 hours of work.If you are expected to be available for work at any time during the 30 minutes, then your employer must pay you for this time.
- After completing one year of employment you are entitled to two weeks vacation (4% of your total earnings). After five years, an employee is entitled to three weeks vacation (6% of your total earnings).
- Your employer must allow you to plan your vacation scheduled in periods of one or more weeks, unless you request otherwise. You need to take your vacation within 12 months of it being earned. If you work less than one year you are not entitled to take a vacation, but must be paid four per cent vacation pay on termination of employment. If you are employed for 5 calendar days or less you are not entitled to vacation pay.
- If you are laid off or fired without cause, you are entitled 1 week of severance for 1 year of employment, 2 weeks for 2 years of employment, etc.
Health & Safety:
- You have the right to refuse unsafe work.
- Employers, management, and co-workers are not allowed to discriminate against you based on, race, ethnicity, religion, gender, or sexual orientation.
- Temporary foreign workers cannot be charged a fee for job placement. Employers cannot require them to stay for a set period of time, nor can they charge business or recruitment costs or deduct these costs from your pay cheque.
- If you work alone in a retail position past 11pm, your employer must ensure there are adequate safety measures in place to protect your safety.
- An employer must not require or allow an employee to work excessive hours, or hours harmful to the employee’s health or safety.
- We can file anonymous complaints against your employer regarding bullying, harassment, and / or health and safety.
- Human Rights complaints can be filed from issues at the workplace, but must be filed within 6 months of the incident.
- Bullying and harassment can include verbal aggression or yelling, being called derogatory names, having malicious rumours spread about you. In the workplace, you have protections from receiving this from employers, coworkers, and customers.
Treatment at Work
- The Employment Standards Act applies to all employees, regardless of whether you are employed on a part-time, full-time, temporary or permanent basis.
- It is the employer’s responsibility to provide evidence if you are fired for ‘just cause’. Unsatisfactory performance or instances of minor misconduct such as absenteeism or tardiness do not usually cut it.
- If an employee is fired for minor misconduct, the employer must show that: A reasonable standard of performance was established and communicated to the employee; the employee was clearly warned that their performance was below the established standard and that continued failure to meet the standard would result in dismissal; the employee was given a reasonable amount of time and assistance to meet the required standard of performance; and the employee still failed to meet the standard.
- If your employer has forgiven misconduct, or if they have not taken action, they cannot later use that misconduct to prove just cause. In order to be relied on as proof of just cause, serious misconduct must result in dismissal at the time.
- An employer must clearly set out its policies and practices and apply them consistently. An employer will be unlikely to prove just cause if it terminates an employee for behaving in a way the employer has permitted in the past or permits in other employees, or for breaking rules the employee has not been made aware of.
- We can help you to file an Employment Standards complaint during or after your time of employment. Complaints must be filed within 6 months of the incident taking place.
- Unpaid wages are a lien, or legal claim, against the property of the employer. The lien takes effect at the time the wages were earned. These liens take priority over all other claims, including a claim of the provincial government, except a prior-registered mortgage or debenture against land.
- An employer can be required to pay interest on unpaid wages owed to an employee. Interest is calculated from the date of the employee’s termination or the date the complaint was filed.
- An employer can not refuse to employ a worker who files an Employment Standards complaint, or otherwise discriminate against a person with respect to their employment.
- You have a right to associate with the Retail Action Network, any labour union, and to organize your co-workers for the purpose of making improvements to your working conditions.
- Unionized workers, as well as workers that are in the process of unionizing, have added protections through the BC Labour code.
- Organizing a union or association amongst your coworkers will give you a stronger voice to make improvements in your workplace. This is an effective way to put the control of your work life into yours and your coworker’s hands.
Work Together. Organize. Win.
Together as a community we have the power to decide what is right and wrong in the workplace. While the process can be intimidating, there are options available to you. Through community awareness, social pressure campaigns, direct actions, and the media, we can win back lost wages or change the way employers treat their staff.
Contact us if you would like to support your fellow workers, or if you are in a dispute with your employer:
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