Your Rights as a Worker in BC

By October 1, 2019Rights

Are you or someone you know being exploited by an employer? Have you been fired, suspended, or let go? Are you missing overtime pay or having your tips stolen? In many instances, employers don’t understand or follow the laws that protect 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 BC Employment Standards Act and the BC Human Rights Code. No employer can ask you to waive or sign away 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. Here are some of your basic rights broken down into 6 categories: wages, scheduling, benefits, health and safety, quitting/fired, and workplace justice.


  • General minimum wage in BC:
    • June 1, 2018 – $12.65 per hour;
    • June 1, 2019 – $13.85 per hour;
    • June 1, 2020 – $14.60 per hour;
    • June 1, 2021 – $15.20 per hour.

    Liquor servers

    The liquor server minimum wage will increase at a greater rate than the regular minimum wage until June 1, 2020. As of June 1, 2021 liquor servers will be paid the regular minimum wage.

    • June 1, 2018 – $11.40 per hour;
    • June 1, 2019 – $12.70 per hour;
    • June 1, 2020 – $13.95 per hour;
    • June 1, 2021 – $15.20 per hour.


  • Your employer cannot deduct from your pay for things like broken dishes/glasses, customer theft, or as punishment for poor work performance.
  • You should never have to start work early or stay late beyond your paid hours. For example, it is wage theft to be asked to arrive 15 minutes early without pay to get changed or get ready for your shift.
  • If you must wear a uniform then the employer must give it to you. Your employer must also clean the uniform at no cost to you. If you clean your own uniform then your boss must pay you for the cost of having it cleaned. A dress code (no jeans, no cut-offs, dark clothing, business casual) is not typically considered a uniform.
  • If you work 15/30 days leading up to a statutory holiday, you should get a paid day off OR if you work on the stat holiday you should be paid an “average day’s pay” AND “time-and-a-half” for every hour worked.
  • You must get paid at least twice a month. A pay period cannot be longer than 16 days, and you must receive your pay within 8 days of the end of the pay period.
  • Employers must provide a pay stub each payday that shows the hours you worked, rate(s) of pay (including overtime), total earnings and deductions. If you quit or get fired, your employer must keep all payroll records for at least 2 years.
  • You must be paid in Canadian currency. An employer can pay you in cash, by cheque, bank draft, money order, or by direct deposit to your bank account if you agree to this in writing.

Scheduling and time off work

  • You are entitled to an uninterrupted unpaid 30 minute break after every 5 hours of work. But, if you are expected to work or be available to work during it, then you must be paid.
  • If you go into work for a shift and get sent home early, you must be paid for at least two hours, even if you are sent home without starting work. This is called minimum daily pay. For example: A server is scheduled to work a lunch shift, and after going into work they’re told the restaurant is too “slow” and to go home. The server must be paid for 2 hours of work.  
  • If you’re scheduled for a shift that’s supposed to last more than 8 hours, you must be paid for at least 4 hours, even if you work less than this or are sent home without working at all.
  • There are 2 types of overtime pay: daily overtime and weekly overtime.
    • Daily overtime: After working 8 hours you should be paid time-and-a-half (1.5 x your hourly wage). After working 12 hours you should be paid double-time (2 x your hourly wage).  
    • Weekly overtime: If you work over 40 hours in a week, you should be paid time-and-a-half for all hours worked after 40 hours. For example, if you work 45 hours in a week, you must be paid for 5 hours of overtime. Weekly overtime applies even if you never work more than 8 hours in a day (see example below).
Sun Mon Tues Wed Thurs Fri Sat
Daily hours 8 7 8 8 7 7 Total hours worked in week =45

= 40 regular hours and 5 overtime hours paid at time-and-a-half

  • Split shifts must be completed within 12 hours of when the shift starts. For example: if you’re scheduled to work a breakfast shift at 8am and a dinner shift at 5pm, you must finish work at 8pm.
  • You must get eight hours off between shifts unless required to work because of an emergency. 
  • You should have at least 32 consecutive hours free from work every 7 days. This is called a rest period. If you work during this rest period, you must be paid time-and-a-half.
  • Your employer must give you unpaid leaves for the following reasons: Pregnancy Leave, Parental Leave, Family responsibility Leave, Compassionate Care Leave, and Bereavement Leave.


  • After completing one year of employment you’re 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).
  • You are entitled to take your vacation in periods of one or more weeks. 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 you still must be paid 4% vacation pay if you quit or get fired. If you work at a place for 5 calendar days or less, you don’t get vacation pay.

Health & Safety

  • You have the right to refuse unsafe work.
  • If you work alone in a retail position after 11pm, your employer must make sure that you are safe from harm. 
  • You can’t be forced to work excessive hours that put your health or safety at risk.
  • Employers, management, co-workers, and customers are not allowed to discriminate against you based on race, place of origin, ethnicity, religion, gender expression or identity, sex (including sexual harassment or pregnancy), sexual orientation, age (over 19), mental or physical disability, and family or marital status.
  • If you experience discrimination at work you can file a human rights complaint with the BC Human Rights Tribunal. Your complaint must be filed within 6 months from when you are discriminated against. The Vancouver Island Human Rights Coalition can help you file a complaint for free.
  • You have the right to work free from bullying and harassment from employers, co-workers, and customers. Bullying and harassment can include being called names, being yelled at, or having mean-spirited rumours spread about you.  It is your right to file a complaint with WorkSafe BC when someone is bullying or harassing you at work. 


  • If you want to quit, you don’t need to give two-weeks notice. 
  • If you’re fired you must receive all outstanding wages within 48 hours. If you quit, your employer must pay you all outstanding wages within 6 days.
  • In your first 3 months of work your employer can fire you without giving you notice or paying you severance. This is often known as a probationary period.
  • If you’re fired after working for more than 3 months, you may be entitled to compensation (also called severance pay) based on this formula:
    • After three consecutive months of employment – one week’s pay
    • After 12 consecutive months of employment – two weeks’ pay
    • After three consecutive years – three weeks’ pay, plus one week’s pay for each additional year of employment to a maximum of eight weeks.
    • No compensation is required if you’re given written notice equal to the number of weeks for which you’re eligible (see above formula). For example: If you worked at the same place for two years, your boss has to either give you two weeks of notice or two weeks of pay when firing you. They can also give you a combination of the two: one weeks pay and one weeks notice.
  • If there is a week in which 50% of your weekly wages are cut (averaged over the previous 8 weeks) and you did not consent to this, you may be  eligible for severance pay if you’ve worked there longer than three months. To get severance pay however you need to stop working there.
  • If you’re fired without written notice or severance pay it is the employer’s responsibility to provide evidence that they fired you for ‘just cause’. Unsatisfactory performance or instances of minor misconduct such as absenteeism or tardiness do not usually cut it. Just cause is not needed if you are in your 3 month probationary period.
  • If you’re fired for minor misconduct, the employer must show that: (1) you were clearly warned that your performance was below the established standard and that continued failure to meet the standard would result in being fired. (2) You were given a reasonable amount of time and assistance to meet the required standard of performance. And (3) given all this you still failed to meet the standard.

Workplace Justice

  • The Retail Action Network and the Employment Standards Legal Advocacy Project (ESLAP) 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, or within 6 months of you being fired or quitting.
  • If you’re owed wages, an employer can be required to pay you interest. 
  • It is illegal for an employer to fire you or punish you because you file an Employment Standards or human rights complaint.
  • You have a right to associate with the Retail Action Network, labour unions, and to organize your co-workers for the purpose of improving your working conditions. Unionized workers, and workers who are in the process of unionizing have added protections through the BC Labour code.
  • Organizing a union or association amongst your co-workers 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 co-worker’s hands.

Work Together. Organize. Win.

Do you feel like these laws don’t go far enough? We do.

Check out our new Grade My Boss survey. A 30 question, true or false anonymous survey on wages, expectations, scheduling, benefits, safety and workplace justice.

Grade your Boss to:

  • Give and get the inside scoop on local workplaces.
  • Educate customers wanting to support businesses who treat their workers well.
  • Pressure bad employers do better.
  • Call public attention to the issues that affect service workers.
  • Your identity is kept confidential so go ahead, grade your workplace! Take the survey here:


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:  || 1.888.482.1837