What do Canada’s new workplace reforms mean for you?

In a comprehensive package of workplace reform bills introduced Monday, the government proposes to combine Canada’s two sick leave entitlements, add new workplace protections, and amend the national sex and safety discrimination legislation.

1. Sick leave

The current system allows employees to receive five weeks’ worth of unpaid sick leave at the end of a year, and a further 15 days after 20 years. Employees are also offered 50 days of additional paid leave at the end of a year if they meet certain criteria: they must work at least 20 hours per week or 40 hours per year, and their final job is with the same employer; they must have been at the same job for at least five years; they must not have lost sick leave, because their employer did not accommodate them; and they must have given the employer at least two weeks’ notice if they needed to be sick.

The government’s proposals would combine the five-week unpaid leave entitlement with the current payout schedule, essentially creating a level of economic security for the millions of Canadians who now rely on unearned sick leave.

2. Increased safety protections

Safety at work is a public health issue, and unions agree that there’s significant room for improvement.

The government’s occupational health and safety laws would be updated to create clear definitions of what constitutes workplace safety, and increased penalties for employers who fail to meet safety obligations. The new rules would also ban companies from recording an employee’s location while he or she is on the job (employees currently have the right to have their precise location record “for recording, reporting or inspection purposes”), and would include broad guidance on workers’ compensation records, which employers can use for price comparisons when hiring or making hiring decisions.

Employers would also be barred from recording the dates when an employee takes off from work; the new law would require employers to do more to provide accurate information about employees’ absences to their insurance providers, but would not require insurance companies to disclose workers’ direct records to employers.

4. Improved pay

About 37% of full-time Canadian employees work in industries with paid sick leave, and some industries pay out more than 10 times more in sick leave than others.

Labour protections exist in Canada under employment, health and safety laws, and the government proposes to review them over the course of four years.

Workers will be able to specify the unpaid leave period in which they would like to be paid, or if they prefer not to be paid at all, while co-operatives, unions and employers would be eligible to work together to create their own wage insurance option, which will be available to all workers, including all part-time employees and newly hired employees.

5. Reducing discrimination

The introduction of laws that would strengthen protections under the criminal code against inappropriate workplace behaviour is a huge victory for many Canadian women, who say they have suffered discrimination because of their gender.

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