Overhaul of the Canada Labour Code: Towards Better Protection of Part-Time Workers

The Canada Labour Code, dating from the 1960s, needs to be modernized. This is the finding of an extensive consultation carried out by the federal government with groups of workers, unions and private sector employers subject to federal regulation.

An overhaul is therefore being prepared to adapt to the new realities of the world of work. These include measures for protection of part-time, occasional and contract workers, the percentage of which has been steadily increasing in recent years.

Part time: more precarious workers

This consultation confirms that workers in atypical jobs have lower incomes and more difficult working conditions (unpredictable schedules, no social benefits or special protection measures). Precariousness is therefore often a part of the daily life of these workers, who are mostly women, young people or people from minorities. The government’s stated goal is to achieve a better compromise between the need to protect precarious workers and employers’ need for flexibility.

What’s to be done to secure these atypical workers?

Several avenues drawn from this consultation are currently being considered, such as:

  • ensuring a wage rate and working conditions equivalent to those of a full-time employee who does comparable work;
  • penalizing employers who erroneously classify atypical workers in the category of independent workers, thereby evading certain obligations;
  • punishing abusive practices in awarding new contracts, or repetitive subcontracts (by using a new subcontractor the precarious workers now lose their acquired rights and benefits, as well as their wage gains);
  • defining better the legal status of atypical employees to encompass all the new forms of work that are currently developing;
  • allowing part-time workers to be heard better, without fear of loss of employment or degradation of their working conditions.

An overhaul that should inspire the provinces

This reform, once debated, will have to apply to workers in the private sector under federal regulation, mainly the banks, telecommunication companies, air transport and rail companies. Nonetheless, it can be expected that the measures adopted will subsequently be included in the various provincial labour codes.

This overhaul of the Canada Labour Code, led by federal Employment Minister Patty Hajdu, is expected to be completed by Labour Day 2019, with the adoption of the proposed changed this fall.

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