Changes to the Canada Labour Code happening September 1, 2019

by | Aug 28, 2019 | For Employers

Federally regulated employers should be aware that various changes to the Canada Labour Code are set to be in place as of September 1st, 2019. As this date is quickly approaching, it is vital that employers familiarize themselves with these amendments and begin implementing them into their practice to ensure continued compliance with the Code.

Some of the essential modifications are summarized below. 


Personal Leave

Employees will have the right to take up to five days of personal leave per calendar year for the following reasons:

  • To treat an illness or injury;
  • To carry out responsibilities relating to the health and care of a family member or to carry out responsibilities related to the education of a family member under the age of 18;
  • To address an emergency either personal or family related;
  • To attend their citizenship ceremony under the Citizenship Act; and
  • Any other reason set by regulation 

Those employees that have been employed for a minimum of three consecutive months with the same employer would receive pay for three of the five days. 

Medical Leave

Employees are entitled to receive up to 17 weeks of medical leave in the case of personal illness or injury, organ or tissue donation, or to attend medical appointments scheduled during work hours. For medical leaves totaling three days or longer, the employee, at the employer’s request, must provide a certificate issued by a health care practitioner verifying that the employee was unable to work. Where possible, employees must provide at least four weeks of written notice to employers to inform them of their intent to take a medical leave. 

Family Violence Leave

Employees will also be allowed to take a leave of up to ten days where they are a victim of family violence or parent a child that is a victim of said violence. No leave will be available for employees that have been charged with an offence connected to the violence or if they are offender of the violence. Those employees that have been employed for a minimum of three consecutive months with the same employer would receive pay for five of the ten days.  

Bereavement Leave

Bereavement leave will be extended from three to five days per year. This leave can be extended further with employer approval. Employees working for three consecutive months or longer would be entitled to receive pay for three of the five days. 

Traditional Aboriginal Practice Leave 

Employers must provide employees who are Aboriginal persons with up to five days of leave where the employee has worked for three consecutive months and requires the leave to engage in a traditional Aboriginal practice. 


Mandatory break after 5 hours of consecutive work 

Employees are entitled to an unpaid break of 30 minutes upon working for five hours consecutively. This period must be paid if the employer requires the employee to be accessible while they are on break. There is an exception in the case of unforeseeable emergencies. 

Break for medical reasons/nursing 

Employees are also entitled to receive an unpaid break when required for medical reasons. Moreover, employees must also be given breaks to allow them to nurse or express breast milk. 

Change of Shifts/Work Schedules 

Shift changes 

If an employer wishes to change or add to an employee’s shift or period, a 24 hour written notice must be provided to the employee before the date of the shift change or addition. The exception to this 24-hour period are situations where the employer had to change or add to the employee’s shift as a result of an emergency that was reasonably unforeseen by the employer. This rule would also not apply to any requests for a change or addition of a shift of a period initiated by the employee. 

Notice of schedule 

Employers must provide employees with their work schedule in writing a minimum of 96 hours before the employee is first set to work during the respective schedule.  This is subject to the exception of unforeseeable emergencies. 

Vacation/Vacation Pay & Holiday Pay 

In terms of vacations, employees that have completed at least one year of employment will be entitled to a vacation of two weeks and vacation pay amounting to 4% of their wages.

Those that have been employed with the same employer for at least five years must receive at least 3 weeks of vacation and vacation pay equalling 6% of their wages.

Lastly, employees that have worked with the same employer for at least ten years are entitled to receive 4 weeks of vacation with a vacation pay equivalent to 8% of their wages.

Employees are entitled to receive holiday pay equal to one twentieth of their wage (not including overtime pay) earned in the four weeks immediately prior to said holiday. 

Overtime Work 

Employees will also have a right to refuse to work overtime when it conflicts with a family responsibility. Specifically, any responsibility pertaining to the health or care of a family member or the education of a family member under the age of 18. 

However, this right of refusal will only be triggered if the employee has taken reasonable steps to carry out the familial responsibility through other means but was unable to do so. Employees will not be able to refuse to work overtime in unforeseeable emergencies as well.It is vital to note that employers are prohibited from taking this refusal into account to dismiss, promote/demote or train the employee. 

Flexible Work Arrangements 

Employees who have been continuously employed for six consecutive months with the employer may also request a change in the conditions of their employment including their work schedule, location of work and number of required work hours.

While it is not mandatory for employers to approve this request provided certain grounds are present, they must respond to the request within 30 days and it is nevertheless an important addition to be aware of. 


Lessons to be learned

  1. On September 1st the Canada Labour Code is significantly changing including changes to leaves, breaks, vacation pay, and an expansion of an employer’s obligations in relation to workplace harassment. 
  2. Employment and labour laws are constantly changing and it is important to be aware of these amendments to ensure continued compliance. One way to keep on top of these changes is to be subscribed to blogs such as this one.

For 30 years, Doug MacLeod of the MacLeod Law Firm has been advising employers on all aspects of the employment relationship. If you have any questions, you can contact him at 416-317-9894 or at [email protected]

The material and information in this blog and this website are for general information only. They should not be relied on as legal advice or opinion. The authors make no claims, promises, or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of any information referred to in this blog or its links. No person should act or refrain from acting in reliance on any information found on this website or blog. Readers should obtain appropriate professional advice from a lawyer duly licensed in the relevant jurisdiction. These materials do not create a lawyer-client relationship between you and any of the authors or the MacLeod Law Firm.



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