Working in B.C.

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Know your rights as a worker in B.C.

While living and working in B.C. as a temporary resident, you have many of the same rights as British Columbians.

If you are in B.C. under the federal Temporary Foreign Worker Program, there are rules that your employer needs to follow. If your employer is not following the terms of your employment agreement or if you suspect that your employer is abusing or misusing the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, you can contact Employment and Social Development Canada. They have a confidential tip line, 1-866-602-9448, and an Online Fraud Reporting Tool.

If you have questions or concerns but don’t know who to contact, call the WorkBC Contact Centre at 1-877-952-6914. Staff will listen to your situation and give you the contact details for the right organization.

If you feel that you are being abused or you are at risk of being abused in relation to your job in Canada, you can report the issue to an appropriate enforcement agency, such as the police, WorkSafeBC, or the Employment Standards Branch, listed below. 

You may also be eligible for an open work permit for vulnerable foreign workers who are victims of abuse. This work permit helps protect your rights as a worker by helping you leave an abusive situation to find a new job. More information can be found on IRCC’s website. 
 

Discrimination and harassment

The B.C. Human Rights Code is a law that protects workers from unfair treatment. Employers cannot refuse to hire people for reasons that are not related to the work. This includes skin colour, race, marital status, family background, religion, sex, sexual orientation, age, or a disability.
 
All people have the right to feel safe at work. If an employer or colleague makes unwelcome sexual advances (for example, always asking you for a date, telling unwelcome jokes, or touching you), this is called sexual harassment. It is also harassment if people criticize or joke about your home country, ethnicity, or religion. The Human Rights Code protects you against these behaviours. If you experience discrimination for any reason included in the Human Rights Code, you can make a complaint to the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal.
 
There are other kinds of harassment that are not included in the Human Rights Code. They include things that make someone feel embarrassed or afraid. Some examples include spreading gossip or bad stories, criticizing a lot, name calling, staring, yelling, ignoring or excluding a person, and blocking a person’s path.

Your employer is required to provide a harassment-free workplace. If someone is harassing or bullying you, you can report it. Write down what happened. If anyone witnessed (saw) the other person harassing you, ask them to write what they saw. If you belong to a union, talk to them. You can also tell the person’s boss or your boss. Although these things may not be part of the Human Rights Code, you may be protected by WorkSafeBC.
 
The actions people think of as harassment can be different, depending on their country or culture. Talk with your union representative, or a settlement worker. They will help you understand if the behaviour is harassment. You can also contact your settlement agency.
 
Find a settlement agency near you.

Employment standards

The Employment Standards Act is a law to protect workers in British Columbia. The Employment Standards Act applies to full-time, part-time, and casual workers. Employers must follow this law. For example, the law says employers must allow workers to take a 30-minute unpaid meal break within 5 hours of starting work. The law also says that if you quit your job, your employer must pay you within 6 days for all the hours you worked.

Other laws protect workers’ rights for other things, such as overtime pay (higher pay for extra work) and leave (time off work with pay). If your employer is not obeying these laws, talk to them about the problem. If the problem is not resolved, contact your union or the Employment Standards Branch. Toll-free: 1 833 236-3700
 
You are protected if you make a complaint to the Employment Standards Branch. Your employer cannot fire (dismiss) you because you made a complaint. They cannot say they will fire you or refuse to pay you. For more information, visit the website.
 
Some workers are not protected by the Employment Standards Act. This includes workers in self-regulated professions – for example, doctors, lawyers, and accountants. It also includes people who have their own business. Workers can be hired as a company employee or as an independent contractor. Independent contractors are self-employed – they work for themselves.

Sometimes, it is not clear if the worker is a company employee or an independent contractor (self-employed). This relationship affects the employee’s rights. The company and the worker may disagree about this relationship. If this happens to you, contact the Employment Standards Branch.
 
If you belong to a union, the Employment Standards Branch cannot help you. If you have a problem, you must talk to someone in your union. See the Joining a Union section below.
 

Hours of work and overtime

The usual working time in British Columbia is 8 hours a day and 40 hours a week. If an employer asks you to work more than 8 hours in a day, or more than 40 hours in a week, they must pay you a higher rate. This is called overtime pay. Overtime pay is one-and-a-half times (1.5 times) your regular hourly pay. For example, if your regular wage is $16 per hour, your overtime wage will be $24 per hour.
 
Part-time or casual workers should get overtime pay if they work more than 8 hours in a day. The employer cannot pay you for less than 2 hours of work, even if the working time is less than 2 hours. If an employer asks you to come in to work and you report for work, they must pay you for at least 2 hours.
 
Some jobs do not have to follow the rules for hours of work and overtime. Contact the Employment Standards Branch if you have questions about the rules for your job.
 

Time off

After you have worked for 5 hours, your employer has to give you a 30-minute break. The employer does not have to pay you for the time of your break. If your employer asks you to be ready to work during your break, or if they ask you to return to work before the 30 minutes are over, they must pay you for the time.

You may work a split shift. This is a shift with a long unpaid break in the middle. For example, many restaurant employees work 4 hours in the morning and 4 hours in the evening. The time between starting your first shift and finishing your last shift must be less than 12 hours. If you work a split shift, the employer must pay you for at least 2 hours of work for the whole day, not for each part of your shift.
 
In every work week, you should have 1 break that lasts at least 32 hours. This means that if your employer asks you to work 7 days in a row during a week, you must receive one-and-a-half times your hourly pay for the hours you work on your shortest day.
 

Safety Standards

The law says employers must make sure workplaces are safe and healthy. They must make sure you have the safety equipment you need. They must give you training and information to stay safe. You must follow the employer’s safety instructions. If you see something unsafe, you must tell the employer right away.
 
WorkSafeBC helps prevent injuries at work. They train employees and workers. They also help people who get hurt at work. People with a work-related illness or injury may not be able to work. If this happens to you, WorkSafeBC may give you compensation (money for lost wages) and cover medical care costs. Employers pay for WorkSafeBC coverage. When you work in B.C., you have the right to a safe work environment. This right is protected by the B.C. Workers Compensation Act.
 

Workplace information

For more information on the sections below, see the Employment Standards Branch website.
 

Your contract

Your contract is the agreement between you and your employer. It should state terms such as the rate of pay, hours of work, and overtime. Always keep a copy of your contract. It will help if there is a dispute between you and your employer. The contract cannot conflict with any laws that apply.
 

Getting paid

Most workers get paid every 2 weeks or twice a month. Your employer may pay you with a cheque. Some employers may pay you by direct deposit (putting money straight into your bank account). You must agree in writing to receive a direct deposit. Your employer must pay you within 8 days after the end of each pay period.

They must give you a pay stub (record) with every cheque. The pay stub should show how many hours you worked, your pay rate, and overtime hours. It will also show the total amount of pay you earned, deductions (taxes and fees), and your net pay (the money you receive after all the deductions are made).
 

Deductions

The law says that an employer must deduct (take off) money from your paycheque to pay for certain taxes and programs. These may include:
  • Income tax: The Canadian government collects taxes from workers to pay for public services.
  • Canada Pension Plan: The Canada Pension Plan (CPP) is a Canadian government program. The pension replaces part of your income when you retire and stop working. If you qualify, you will receive monthly payments for the rest of your life. If you have an employer, they will deduct half of your CPP contribution from every paycheque. The employer will pay the other half of your contribution. If you are self-employed, you pay the whole contribution. The government also gives money to the program. You are eligible to receive CPP payments after you retire (permanently stop working). The amount you get will depend on how much you worked. If a CPP contributor dies, their husband or wife may be eligible to get their CPP payments. These are called survivor benefits.
  • Employment Insurance (EI): Employment Insurance is a Canadian government program. It helps workers who lose their jobs. EI payments (premiums) are deducted from your monthly paycheque. Employers also pay. If you lose your job and you have paid into EI, you may qualify for EI benefits (payments). See the Losing Your Job section below for more information.
  • Taxable benefits: Some employers give employees free benefits – for example, a parking space, a bus pass, or dental care. Free benefits are treated like part of your income. You will pay tax for them.
  • Union dues: Unions collect dues (fees) from members. If you are in a union and the union has an agreement with your employer, union dues will be deducted from your pay.
  • Voluntary deductions: You can ask to pay for extra insurance plans or donations to charities through deductions on your paycheque. These deductions are voluntary – you do not have to do it. You must give your employer written permission to make these deductions. You can also ask your employer to deduct money for other things, including:
    • pay advances (wages paid before you worked)
    • things you bought from the employer (for example, if you work at a tire store and buy tires on credit)
    • personal use of the employer’s property (for example, if you rent a vehicle or apartment from the employer)
Your employer cannot deduct money from your pay to cover business costs. For example, an employer cannot deduct money to pay for breakage, property damage, or theft. Your employer is also not allowed to ask you to pay for these types of expenses.
 

Minimum wage

The minimum wage is the lowest amount a worker can be paid per hour. As of June 2021, the minimum wage in B.C. is $15.20 per hour. Employers must pay all workers at least the minimum wage. This wage is the same for full-time, part-time, and casual workers. For more information about the minimum wage, see the Employment Standards Branch website.
 
Some workers are paid at a “piece rate”. This means they are paid for the amount of work they do, not the number of hours. For example, if you work picking fruit on a farm, you may be paid for every pound of fruit you pick. If you are a writer, you may earn a certain amount of money for each word. Regardless of how you are paid, you must be paid at least the minimum wage. Some workers, such as those picking fruit or vegetables, may have different minimum wages. Ask how you will be paid before you start work.
 

Children and work

Canadian law says children under 15 years old cannot work during school hours. Children under 12 years old are usually not allowed to work. For more information about hiring young people, visit the Employment Standards Branch website.
 

Vacations

All workers must get at least 2 weeks of paid vacation after working for 1 full year. If you leave your job before you take your vacation, your employer must give you some extra money for vacation pay. Vacation pay should be at least 4% of your earnings. After staying in a job for 5 years, you should get 3 weeks of vacation and 6% vacation pay. For more information on vacations, see the Employment Standards website.
 

Taking time off work

Employees can take a leave (time off work) for certain reasons. If you need to take leave for one of these reasons, your employer does not have to pay you, but the Canadian government may give you some money.
 

Maternity and parental leave

Maternity leave is a break from work for women who are pregnant. Pregnant women may take up to 17 weeks of maternity leave. It must start on or before the day the baby is born. If you need maternity leave, you should apply as soon as possible. You need to ask at least 4 weeks before you want to go. If a woman cannot return to work because of the birth or termination (ending) of the pregnancy, she may take another 6 weeks off.
 
Parental leave is a break from work for parents with a new baby. Women who took maternity leave may take up to 61 weeks of parental leave. Other parents may take up to 62 weeks of parental leave. Parents who adopt a child can also take parental leave. Parents may apply for Employment Insurance benefits during maternity and parental leave. This means the government will give you some money while you are not working. Parental benefits may be shared between eligible parents.
 
Parents need to apply to receive EI maternity or parental benefits. They are not paid automatically.
 
For more information:

Compassionate care leave

If you need to care for a someone in your family who is sick or dying, your employer must let you take time off work. This is called compassionate care leave. Get more information about compassionate care leave, and find out if you are eligible.
 

EI Caregiving benefits and leave

Some people need to take time away from work to care for or support someone who is critically ill, injured, or dying. You may be able to receive up to 55% of your earnings through EI. As a caregiver, you do not have to be related to or live with the person you care for or support, but they must consider you to be like family.
 

There are 3 types of benefits:

  • family caregiver benefit for children
  • family caregiver benefit for adults
  • compassionate care benefits
For more information and to see if you are eligible, visit the Government of Canada website.
 

Bereavement Leave

A person may take time off from work after a family member dies. This is called bereavement leave. Employees may take up to 3 days of bereavement leave. Bereavement leave is not paid. The family member must be immediate family.
 

Sickness Benefits

When people are sick, they may take time off from work to recover. A person who can’t work due to personal illness or injury may take up to 3 days of unpaid, job-protected leave each year. This leave applies to employees who have worked for their employer for at least 90 days. If asked, employees need to provide enough information to satisfy their employer that they are ill or injured and therefore entitled to the leave. If you cannot work because you are sick, injured, or in quarantine, you can apply for Employment Insurance sickness benefits.
 

Family Responsibility Leave

Some workers have to take time off work to care for a sick family member. They may need to attend their child’s school activity. This is called family responsibility leave. Employers must give workers up to 5 days’ general family responsibility leave every year. The law does not require employers to pay employees during family responsibility leave.
 

Critical Illness and Injury Leave

An illnesses or injury is “critical” if it is possible that the person could die. Employees can take time off from work to care for family members who are critically ill or injured. Critical illness and injury leave is not paid. Workers may take up to 16 weeks of leave to care for a critically ill or injured adult family member. For a child, they may take up to 36 weeks of leave.
 

Domestic or sexual violence

Employees experiencing domestic or sexual violence can take time off from work. They can take up to 5 days off with pay, and up to 5 days of leave without pay. Up to 15 weeks of additional unpaid leave is available.
 

Holidays

Most holidays in Canada are set by the government. They are called statutory holidays. On statutory holidays, you get a day off work, but you still get paid. There are some requirements for these rules to apply. For example, you must have worked for your employer for 30 days or more. You must have worked at least 15 of the 30 days before the holiday.

If you do work on a statutory holiday, your employer should give you time-and-a-half pay for all the hours you work as well as an average day’s pay. Time-and-a-half pay is your regular hourly salary, plus half. For example, if you earn $16 per hour, time-and-a-half would be $24 per hour. An average day’s pay is what you normally earn in a day of work. If you do not work on a statutory holiday, you are still entitled to be paid an average day’s pay.
 

There are 10 statutory holidays in British Columbia:

• New Year’s Day (January 1)
• Family Day (third Monday in February)
• Good Friday (Friday before Easter Sunday, in March or April)
• Victoria Day (Monday before May 24)
• Canada Day (July 1. If July 1 is a Sunday, the statutory holiday is on July 2)
• B.C. Day (first Monday in August)
• Labour Day (first Monday in September)
• Thanksgiving (second Monday in October)
• Remembrance Day (November 11)
• Christmas Day (December 25)
 
See the Employment Standards website for more information on Statutory Holidays in British Columbia.
 

Labour unions

If your job is covered by a labour union, the B.C. Labour Relations Code defines the rights and obligations that apply. The Guide to the Labour Relations Code describes how it works.
 

Joining a union

A union is a group of employees who work together to talk to the employer. Unions may ask for better wages, benefits, working conditions, and more. Unions help workers solve problems with employers. They also help when the employer breaks the law or breaks a contract. Unions must be certified to operate in a workplace. That means all the workers have voted to support the union. Workers pay dues (money) to be part of the union. Union dues are automatically deducted (taken from) your pay cheques.
 
All employees have the legal right to join a union. In some jobs, you must join the union to get hired. If you are in a union and you have a problem with your employer, talk to your union. A person from the union will work with you and speak to the employer about your situation.
 
For more information about unions, contact the BC Federation of Labour
 

If you get hurt at work

If you have an accident at work, get help right away. Some companies have a first aid attendant. Call them or go to see them. Report the accident to your supervisor or employer as soon as possible. If anyone witnessed (saw) the accident, you should ask them to report what they saw.
 
Fill out a report form. Your company may have accident report forms. If they don’t, you can call the Teleclaim phone line. If you need to see a doctor, let your doctor know that you were injured at work. If you miss work because of your injury or illness, call WorkSafeBC toll-free: 1 888 967-5377. For more information, contact WorkSafeBC.
 

Losing your job

Being fired

An employer cannot fire (dismiss) a worker for no reason. Employers must give the worker written notice (letter or email) before the job ends. If the employer does not give written notice, they need to give compensation (extra pay). The employer may also have to give both written notice and compensation. There are rules about compensation and written notice.
  • If a person has worked for an employer for less than 3 months, the employer does not need to give written notice or compensation. The first 3 months of work are often called the “probationary period”.
  • If the person has been at the job for more than 3 months, the employer must give 1 week’s notice or 1 week’s pay.
  • If the person has been at the job for a year, the employer must give 2 weeks’ notice or 2 weeks’ pay.
  • After 3 years, the employer must give 3 weeks’ notice or 3 weeks’ pay.
  • The amount of written notice or pay increases with each year a worker stays in the job. The maximum is 8 weeks’ notice or pay after 8 years of work.
A worker may not do their job well. A worker may also not behave well (for example, being late for work). The employer cannot fire the worker the first time the problem happens. They must warn the worker that the behaviour is unacceptable. They must explain how to fix the problem. They must give the worker time to change. The employer must give a final warning that the worker will be fired if they do not change.

If the problem happens again, the employer may fire the worker without notice or pay. In some cases, an employer may fire a worker without notice or pay after just one problem. This must be a serious problem – for example, if the worker steals from the employer or hurts or threatens someone. These reasons are called “just cause”. If your employer says they have just cause to fire you without notice or pay, and you disagree, contact the Employment Standards Branch.
 
When you leave a job, your employer must give you a record of employment. You need this paper to apply for Employment Insurance (EI).
 

Being laid off

If an employer doesn’t have any work available, they may need to fire a worker. This may happen even if the worker did nothing wrong. A worker who is fired because the company has no work is “laid off”. Employers laying off workers must follow the same rules. They must give written notice and/or compensation.

Sometimes there can be a “temporary layoff”. The employer must show:
  • the worker was told about the temporary layoff when they were hired, or
  • the layoff is part of the industry the worker’s industry (for example, seasonal work like logging or fruit picking), or
  • the worker agrees to the temporary layoff
If the employer lays the worker off for any of these reasons, they must bring the worker back to work within 13 weeks. If the employer does not bring the worker back, they must give compensation as though they had dismissed the worker. Some employers use different words to describe ending a job. These words include “dismiss”, “fire”, “terminate”, or “layoff”. Check with your employer to make sure you understand what they mean.
 

Quitting

Workers may decide to quit (leave) a job. There is no law saying workers have to give early notice. But it is still better to tell the employer early. Most people tell their employers 2 weeks before they finish. The employer does not have to pay any compensation if you quit.
 

Employment Insurance (EI)

Employment Insurance (EI) provides money to workers who lose their jobs through reasons they can’t control – there isn’t enough work to do, the work happens in summer or in winter, or the company lays everyone off. To receive EI, you must be ready, willing, and able to work. You must also be actively looking for a new job.

Always apply for EI benefits as soon as you stop working. You can apply for benefits even if you have not yet received your Record of Employment (ROE). If you delay filing your claim for benefits for more than 4 weeks after your last day of work, you may lose benefits.
 
People who quit their jobs are not eligible for EI. Self-employed people are also not eligible for EI. Not all jobs are insured. Learn more about EI and find out if you are eligible.
 
If you lose your job, visit your local WorkBC Centre. They have free services to help you find a job.
 

Income assistance

You can only collect EI for a few months. Your EI may stop before you find a job. If this happens, you may qualify for help from the provincial government. This is called British Columbia Employment and Assistance Program. It is also called income assistance, or welfare. For information, visit the Employment and Assistance Program website