What Do the Recent Changes to the Canada Labour Code Mean for Me?

CLC-1Do you operate in the shipping, railway, air transportation, radio broadcasting, banking, or another federally-regulated industry? If so, your business is likely subject to the Canada Labour Code (the “CLC”), and recent changes to that statute have the potential to significantly reduce the financial and other stress employers experience following an employee complaint for unpaid wages under the CLC.

Previously, employees were not subject to any deadlines for filing complaints for unpaid wages or other amounts owed under Part III of the CLC, and there were no limits on the amounts they could claim for. If an employee could prove her claim, she could theoretically seek and recover back wages up to and including her hire date. As of April 1, 2014, however, this is no longer true. Amendments to the CLC now limit employees in terms of both when they can make a claim, and how much they can claim for, as follows:

  • An employee must file a complaint for unpaid wages or other amounts within 6 months of the date the employer was required to pay those wages / amounts, and any other complaint is due within 6 months of the event complained of
  • The employee will be limited to recovering a maximum of 12 months (the “look-back” period) of unpaid wages or other amounts
  • The look-back period for vacation pay will be 24 months

CLC-2Notably, while these time limits do not strictly track the ones set out in the BC Employment Standards Act (although the 6 month deadline for filing wage complaints is the same), they certainly bring the CLC much closer in line with provincial legislation than was previously the case. The CLC amendments also include a new administrative review process which will allow an employee to request a review of certain decisions made by an Employment and Social Development Canada – Labour Program inspector.

Federally-regulated employers should also keep in mind that these amendments do not impact the existing 90-day time limit for filing an unjust dismissal complaint under subsection 240(2) of the CLC.

Benefits for Employers

These CLC changes stand to benefit federally-regulated employers in a number of ways, including:

  • Increasing certainty regarding the possibility of employee wage complaints
  • Creating a simpler, more streamlined complaint and response process
  • Limiting the employer’s risk and financial exposure by eliminating open-ended wage complaints

For more information about the recent CLC amendments, you can view the Government’s explanatory note here.

Are you a federally-regulated employer with questions about a Canada Labour Code complaint? Contact us!

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