Susan Kootnekoff is the founder of Inspire Law, an Okanagan based-law practice. She has been practicing law since 1994, with brief stints away to begin raising children. Susan has experience in many areas of law, but is most drawn to areas in which she can make a positive difference in people’s lives, including employment law. She has been a member of the Law Society of Alberta since 1994 and a member of the Law Society of British Columbia since 2015. Susan grew up in Saskatchewan. Her parents were both entrepreneurs, and her father was also a union leader who worked tirelessly to improve the lives of workers. Before moving to B.C., Susan practiced law in both Calgary and Fort McMurray, AB. Living and practicing law in Fort McMurray made a lasting impression on Susan. It was in this isolated and unique community that her interest in employment law, and Canada’s oil sands industry, took hold. In 2013, Susan moved to the Okanagan with her family, where she currently resides. photo:contributed

Kootnekoff: Federal Employment law changes

Federal Bill C-86 received royal assent on Dec. 13, 2018.

The Bill contains a number of changes, including far-reaching changes to the Canada Labour Code, the Employment Insurance Act, and federal pay equity legislation.

The changes will apply to federally regulated employers. The Constitution Act, 1867 determines which areas are federally or provincially regulated. Examples of federally regulated employers include banks, telecommunications, and transportation that travels outside provincial boundaries.

Amendments to the Canada Labour Code include changes to leaves of absence, hours of work, minimum age of employment, equal treatment, vacation, and rights upon dismissal from employment.

Employees will be eligible for sick, maternity, parental and critical illness leaves, and leaves related to the death or disappearance of a child upon commencing employment.

Employees who divide their parental leave will be entitled to a greater combined parental leave, and a greater combined maternity and parental leave.

Employees will be entitled to take new paid and unpaid leaves of absences including a five day paid leave for victims of family violence, five day personal leave; court or jury duty leave; and medical leave of up to 17 weeks due to personal illness or injury, organ or tissue donation, or medical appointments during work hours.

Employees will become entitled to a break of 30 minutes for every five hours of work.

A minimum of eight hours will be required between shifts.

Employees will become entitled to unpaid breaks for breastfeeding, pumping breastmilk or medical reasons.

Unionized employers will become obliged, subject to a collective agreement, to give employees at least 96 hours of advance written notice of their work schedule. If that notice is not given, employees may with some exceptions refuse that work.

The minimum age for employment will rise from 17 to 18 years of age, with some exceptions such as in certain industrial settings.

Employers will be required to pay equal wage rates to people who work in the same industrial establishment, perform substantially the same type of work, requiring substantially the same skill, effort and responsibility, and under similar working conditions.

Employees with five years’ continuous service will now become entitled to three weeks’ paid vacation, up from the current six years’ service. Employees with 10 or more years of service will become entitled to four weeks’ paid vacation.

Employees with at least three months’ service will become entitled to a minimum of two to eight weeks’ written notice of dismissal, or pay in lieu of such notice at their regular wage rate for regular hours of work, or a combination of the two. The specific amount will depend on the length of service.

Employers will be required to provide employees with a written employment statement and certain other materials regarding their rights and obligations within the first 30 days of employment and at certain other intervals, including upon dismissal from employment.

The changes to the Canada Labour Code are to be proclaimed in force within 18 months of royal assent.

Employment Insurance Act changes will increase the maximum time allowed for parental leave benefits. These changes are to come into force in May, 2019.

The pay equity provisions will require certain federal employers to actively scrutinize compensation practices to ensure equal compensation across genders for work of equal value.

Affected employers with at least 10 employees will have three years to create a pay equity plan that meets certain criteria.

The pay equity provisions come into force upon proclamation, when the relevant regulations are filed.

Moving forward

Federally regulated employers will need to become familiar with the changes, to ensure compliance. Updates to workplace policies will likely be required.

This bill contains other changes, including several that relate to occupational health and safety, which are not discussed above.

Federally regulated employers should study this bill closely, as should employees who wish to know their rights.

This all assumes that the writ for the next federal election is not dropped before the changes become effective.

The content of this article is intended to provide very general thoughts and general information, not to provide legal advice. Advice from an experienced legal professional should be sought about your specific circumstances. If you would like to reach us, we may be reached at 250-764-7710 or Check out our website,

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