The Employment Standards Act and Family Responsibilities – Employer Forum Recap

For our June Employer Forum, Kent lawyers Fiona H. McFarlane and Sean Marzinzik led a discussion about the Employment Standards Act and human rights legislation. The discussion focused on:

  • the laws in place in British Columbia that ensure employees can meet various family responsibilities, and
  • that employers who impact these rights risk exposing themselves to potential human rights complaints.

Key Takeaways

For those employers who weren’t able to make it, here are a few key takeaways:

  1. Know the Legislation. The Employment Standards Act of British Columbia (“ESA”) applies to most non-unionized employees, except for some occupations. Moreover, Federal and provincial human rights legislation (“HRL”) applies to everyone. If a company is complying with the ESA, that does not necessarily mean they are complying with the HRL. Therefore, employers must ensure they have a full understanding of both the ESA and HRL. Furthermore, they should be aware that there is a difference between Employment Insurance (“EI”) and the ESA. For instance, an employee may be eligible to receive benefits for a leave from EI that is not considered an unpaid leave in ESA.
  2. Be careful of changes. Any unilateral changes by an employer to an employee’s hours or job responsibilities that negatively affect caregiving obligations may be considered discrimination in employment. As a consequence, it is best for the employer to keep a conversation open with their employees, while considering changing terms of employment.
  3. We’re here to help. The ESA and the HRL are complicated pieces of legislation that have different applications to employers and employees. It is wise to have an experienced employment lawyer assist in understanding these sections or in helping to create new work policies.

Coming Up Next

We are taking a break over the summer, however will be back for our next Employer Forum in September 2021. We will be focusing on when human resources should ask for assistance.  If you’d like to attend the September event or be added to our newsletter mailing list, please contact Janelle Neufeld at

Have questions about your workplace policies? Contact us!

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