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.

Temporary migrant workers in BC are also coveredby the BC Employment Standards Act and the protections outlined below. No employer can ask you to waive or sign away your rights.

This page describes some of your basic rights broken down into 6 categories:

If 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.

Contact us

Questions about COVID-19?

Read up on your rights during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Getting Paid

Wages

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

     

  • Liquor servers
    As of June 1, 2021 liquor servers will be paid the regular minimum wage.
  • 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 or tips 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.
  • Uniforms: 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.
  • Stat holidays: If you work 15/30 days leading up to a statutory holiday and you’ve been employed for at least 30 days you are eligible for stat holiday pay.  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.

Tips

  • Employers are allowed to collect tips and redistribute them to other employees, but they cannot deduct from your tips for things like spillage, broken dishes, credit card/debit fees, or customer theft.
  • Managers and employers are only allowed to receive tips from the tip-pool if they regularly do the same work or similar work as other employees who are part of the tip pool.
  • If the tips you earn are considered “controlled tips,” and not “direct tips”, then they count towards your total insurable earnings. This means if you receive EI (e.g. for being laid off, or for taking maternity/parental leave, or other reasons) your tips should count as part of your insurable earnings and can increase your EI payment.
  • Controlled tips: tips an employer controls or possesses and pays to the employee. (e.g. tips allocated to employees using a tipping pool, a tip-sharing formula determined by the employer, or employer adds a mandatory service charge to a client’s bill to cover tips)
  • Direct tips: tips an employer has no control over. (e.g. a customer leaves a tip and the server keeps the whole amount, or when employees and not the employer decide how the tips are pooled or shared). For more examples see the CRA policy controlled vs direct tips.
  • Your employer is legally responsible for paying EI premiums on controlled tips.

Scheduling and time off

  • 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:
    • Maternity leave: A pregnant employee can take up to 17 consecutive weeks. This leave may be extended by up to six weeks.
    • Parental leave: An employee who has taken maternity leave can take to up to 61 weeks. Other parents can take up to 62 weeks. The leave can begin at any time within 78 weeks of a baby being born or a child being placed. It may be extended by up to five weeks.
    • Family responsibility leave: An employee can take up to five days in each employment year to attend to the care, health or education of a child under the age of 19 in their care. They can also use this type of leave to attend to the care or health of any other member of their immediate family.
    • Leave respecting domestic or sexual violence: An employee is entitled to 10 days per calendar year for situations related to domestic or sexual violence, plus additional time if necessary.
    • Critical illness or injury leave: An employee can take 36 weeks to care for a child and up to 16 weeks to care for a family member over the age of 19. A medical certificate is required.
    • Compassionate care leave: An employee can take up to 27 weeks in a 52-week period to provide care for a family member who is terminally ill and is at risk of death within 26 weeks. A medical certificate is required.
    • Bereavement leave: An employee can take up to three days if an immediate family member dies.
    • Leave respecting disappearance or death or a child: An employee can take up to 52 weeks if their child disappears and up to 104 weeks for the death of their child.
    • Jury duty leave: An employee can take leave to attend court as a juror.
    • Reservists’ leave:  An employee who is a reservist for the Canadian Forces is entitled to 20 days of unpaid leave in a calendar year to participate in specific duties.

Benefits

  • 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 usually be filed within 1 year from the incident your complaint is about. If your complaint is about an ongoing issue, then you must file within 1 year of the last incident. If this time period has already passed, there are certain exceptions that the Human Rights Tribunal may make to still allow you to file the complaint. (E.g. when it is in the public interest to accept your complaint)
  • If you are on Vancouver Island, The Vancouver Island Human Rights Coalition can help you file a complaint for free. If you are on the mainland, The BC Human Rights Clinic provides free legal support.
  • 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 quit or are fired

  • 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

  • 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
  • Still working for the employer your complaint is with? You can still file a complaint, and do so confidentially. Your complaint can include issues up to one year before the date your complaint is filed.
  •  If you are no longer working for the employer, you must file your complaint within six months of your last day of work. Issues from the last year of your employment will be reviewed.
  • 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, human rights, or Worksafe BC 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 among 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. Learn more about how to join a union in BC here.

What do we do about it?

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 legal advocacy, social pressure campaigns, direct actions, and the media, we can win back lost wages and change the way employers treat their staff.

Contact us for help to file a complaint against your employer or organize for improvements in your workplace.
Grade your boss!: Fill out 30 true or false questions in the confidential survey on the Grade My Boss website. Grade My Boss helps workers get the inside scoop on local workplaces, educates customers wanting to support businesses who treat their workers well, and pressures bad employers do better.
Organize! Don’t feel like these laws go far enough? Neither do we. Let’s organize for worker justice across the province. Email us at solidarity@retailaction.ca if you want to get involved in our campaigns.