Canada - How Labour Code changes affect employers


The Canadian legislator passed several laws intended to modernise the Canada Labour Code in 2018 and 2018. The laws introduced new rules and regulations to govern federally regulated workplaces. Three of the principal changes, due to come into effect on September 1, 2019, were reported and summarised by Lexology.

Change one: Longer leaves of absence

Personal leave will be extended to 5 days from September 1, 2019. At which time all employees become entitled to a leave of absence of up to 5 days each year for:

  • Treating illness or injury
  • Carrying out responsibilities related to the health or the care of their family members
  • Carrying out responsibilities related to the education of any family members under 18
  • Addressing an urgent matter concerning the employee or family members
  • Attending their citizenship ceremony under the citizenship act
  • Another reason prescribed by regulation


Employees will be entitled to take the first 3 days of absence with pay after 3 consecutive months of employment.

Victims of Family Violence

From September 1, 2019, every employee who is a victim of family violence or is the parent of a child who is a victim of family violence becomes entitled to take a leave of absence of up to 10 days every year. The leave may be taken for various reasons specified in the Canada Labour Code: to seek medical attention, obtain psychological or other professional counselling, relocate temporarily or permanently, etc.

Employees will be entitled to the first 5 days of absence with pay after three consecutive months of employment.

Court or Jury Duty Leave

From September 1, 2019, every employee will be entitled to take a leave of absence to attend court to act as a witness or a juror in a proceeding or to participate in the jury selection process.

Leave for Traditional Aboriginal Practices

From September 1, 2019, Aboriginal employees who have completed 3 consecutive months of continuous employment will be entitled to take a leave of absence of up to 5 days every year in order to engage in traditional Aboriginal practices, such as hunting, fishing, harvesting and any practice prescribed by regulation.

Bereavement Leave

From September 1, 2019, following the death of a member of their immediate family, every employee will be entitled to 5 days of bereavement leave. An increase of 2 days from the current entitlement. However, only the first 3 days of this leave will be paid at the employee’s regular wage rate.

Holiday Pay

From September 1, 2019, employees will no longer have to work a minimum of 30 days to be entitled to receive holiday pay for a general holiday

Change 2: Increase in vacation entitlements

From September 1, 2019, employees will be entitled to more generous vacation time and pay:

The rules regarding when to take vacation time will not change. As a result, the employer must provide the employee with the vacation time to which they are entitled. The time is to begin no later than 10 months following the completion of the year of employment during which the employee became entitled to the vacation. The employer must additionally provide employees with vacation pay within 14 days of the beginning of the vacation or on their regular payday - during or immediately following the vacation.


The employee will now also be able to split their annual leave into multiple periods. With the written approval of the employer.

Change three: Work schedule, Rest period and Breaks

From September 1, 2019, every employee will be entitled to take an unpaid break of at least 30 minutes during every 5 consecutive hours of work.

However, employers may postpone or cancel the break to deal with a situation that could not have reasonably been foreseen and which presents an imminent or serious “threat to the life, health or safety of any person, threat of damage to or loss of property or threat of serious interference with the ordinary working of the employer’s industrial establishment”.

Breaks for Medical Reasons or for Nursing

From September 1, 2019, subject to the regulations, every employee will be entitled to unpaid breaks if necessary for medical reasons or for the purpose of nursing or expressing breast milk.

8-hour Rest Periods

From September 1, 2019, every employee will be entitled to a rest period of at least 8 consecutive hours between shifts. However, employers may shorten the rest period for the same reasons defined for the postponement or cancellation of the 30-minute break periods.

Shift Changes – 24 hours written notice

From September 1, 2019, employers seeking to change a period or shift during which an employee is scheduled to work or wanting to add another work period or shift to the employee’s schedule will have to give the employee written notice of the change or addition at least 24 hours in advance. However, the C.L.C. does highlight exceptions where this notice will not be required. Most of the exceptions match those applying to the postponement or the cancellation of a 30 minute break period.

Overtime – Choice between overtime pay or time off

From September 1, 2019, subject to certain conditions, an employee who has worked overtime may now choose to receive either an hour and a half of time off with pay for each hour of overtime worked or overtime pay at a rate of wages no less than one and one-half times the regular rate.

Subject to certain conditions, the employee will also have the right to refuse to work overtime in order to carry out responsibilities related to the health or care of any family members or the education of any family members under 18.