Employment standards can be tough to navigate if you don’t know them well or work with them on a regular basis. That’s why most employers don’t realize that provincial legislation sets limits for an employee’s working hours and time free from work. Most people are familiar with overtime, which is a threshold of hours an employee exceeds that will then permit them to receive premium pay. However, what about the other work limits? Can employees agree to waive their employment rights? Do the rules apply to everyone?
In most provinces, the employment/labour standards legislation outlines things from the maximum daily limit on hours worked, the threshold for when overtime kicks in, as well as weekly limits on work hours. There are also standards for rest periods and eating periods that outline what type of meal break an employee is entitled. These standards also state the number of consecutive hours an employee should have off work each day and the number of consecutive hours off work for each work week.
In most cases employees have to agree in writing to exceed the maximum allowances under the law. However, a verbal or written agreement or a signed contract isn’t always enough. Some provinces require written approval to be submitted to the governing body and have specific forms that the employees need to complete. In some cases, there are no exceptions; you have to follow the law and you cannot have employees sign away their rights.
What also makes grasping employment standards difficult is that not all of the laws apply to all workplaces. Some provinces or industries have exceptions or special rules. A few examples include: Minimum wage can be different for employees who serve alcohol, paramedics aren’t always eligible for overtime pay, and landscape gardeners (including golf course maintenance employees) are not eligible for public holiday pay. Be sure that you know if your workplace has any employment/labour standard exceptions when creating or reviewing workplace policies. It’s important to be prepared and know exactly what applies and what doesn’t.
No judge will take the excuse, “but I didn’t know” when reviewing an employment standards complaint. It is important to remember that employers must not intimidate, terminate, suspend, reduce pay, or punish an employee in any way or threaten any of these actions if the employee is asking questions or wants to exercise their rights. Review your policies and practices and make sure you are operating within the rules set out in the legislation for your province.