Canada Labour Code Amendments Coming into Force

Calling all federal sector employers! Significant amendments to the Canada Labour Code come into force on September 1, 2019. That’s this coming Sunday. 

Does this apply to you?

Employers are often confused by the various workplace laws and requirements. It’s tricky to know which apply and not every law applies to every workplace. 

In Canada, the Constitution divides power between the federal and provincial governments. Here is a fun article if you want to delve more deeply into this topic. 

The Canada Labour Code is a federal law which sets out minimum employment standards for sectors that fall under federal power. These are generally sectors that go between the provinces, for example, air travel, railways and road transportation. It also applies to the telecommunications sector, banks and federal Crown corporations. 

For workplaces not involved in banking, telecommunications, air transport etc., minimum employment standards will be set by the provincial law. In Ontario, this is the Employment Standards Act

What’s New?

So if you’re a federal sector employer, here is what’s new come September 1, 2019: 

Breaks and Rest Periods

  • 30 minutes breaks – employees are entitled to an unpaid break of 30 minutes during every 5 hour work period. If the employee is required to remain available during the break, then the break will be paid. 
  • 8 hours between shifts – employees are entitled to a minimum of 8 hours off between shifts.
  • Unpaid medical or nursing breaks – employees are entitled to breaks for medical reasons or, if nursing, to nurse or express breast milk. 

Shift Scheduling and Overtime

  • 96 hours of notice of scheduled shift – employers must provide employees with their schedule a minimum of 96 hours prior to the start of the first shift. Employees can refuse work if less notice is provided, except in emergencies. 
  • 24 hours notice of shift change – employers must provide employees with a minimum of 24 hours of notice that a shift will change, except in emergencies. 
  • Lieu time instead of overtime – employees can elect to have time off at the rate of 1.5 hours per overtime hour instead of pay. 
  • Right to refuse overtime – employees may refuse to work overtime hours because of family responsibilities, with certain limitations.  

Entitlement to Flexible Work Arrangements

  • Right to Request Changes – employees with at least 6 months of consecutive service to an employer can request changes to their hours of work, work schedule, location of work or terms and conditions of work. The employer can refuse the request only on certain grounds. 

Time Off – Vacation and Holidays 

  • Vacation minimums – employees are entitled to 2 weeks of vacation (4% vacation pay) after one completed year of employment, 3 weeks of vacation (6% vacation pay) after 5 consecutive years of employment and 4 weeks of vacation (8% vacation pay) after 10 years of completed employment. 
  • General holiday pay for holidays that fall within the employee’s first 30 days of employment – holidays within the employees first 30 days were previously not paid. 


  • Personal Leave – 3 paid days and 2 unpaid days per year for employees who have completed 3 consecutive months of employment. The leave is for personal illness, injury or caring for family members. The employer can request documentation to support the reason for the leave. NOTE: The Personal Leave entitlement is already in effect.
  • Victims of Family Violence – 10 days of leave, the first 5 of which are paid if the employee has completed at least 3 consecutive months with the employer. This leave is for victims of family violence or for parents with children who are victims of family violence.
  • Traditional Aboriginal Practices – available to employees who identify as Aboriginal, this leave is 5 unpaid days per year to engage in traditional  Aboriginal practices. 
  • Court or Jury Duty – Employees are entitled to an unpaid leave of an unspecified length to attend court as a witness, juror or for jury duty. 
  • Bereavement – up to 5 days, the first 3 of which will be paid for the death of an immediate family member, if the employee has completed at least 3 consecutive months of service. 
  • Removal of the Minimum Service Requirement for the following existing leaves: maternity, parental, critical illness, or death or disappearance of a child.

The above list covers the highlights and for the most part, brings federal workplaces more in line with entitlements that already exist in provincially regulated workplaces. More changes are to come, with implementation dates not yet set in most cases, so stay tuned.  

If you have specific questions about the impact of one of these changes on your workplace, please get in touch!

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