Québec’s National Assembly enacted Bill 176, An Act to amend the Act respecting labour standards and other legislative provisions mainly to facilitate family-work balance (the “Act”). Some of the Act’s amendments came into effect on June 12, 2018 and other amendments will come into effect on January 1, 2019. The Act has an assortment of amendments. This article focuses on some of the key amendments to: (i) vacation and leave requirements; (ii) differential treatment; and (iii) prevention of psychological and sexual harassment.
(i) Vacation, Work Hours and Leave
Under current legislation, employees must be credited with 5 years of uninterrupted service to be entitled to an annual vacation entitlement of 3 consecutive weeks. Effective January 1, 2019, the Act reduces this requirement of 5 years of uninterrupted service to 3 years.
The Act also changes when employees can refuse work. Previously, employees could refuse to work more than 4 hours after regular daily working hours. The Act reduces this to 2 hours after daily working hours as of January 1, 2019.
The Act broadens access to statutory parental and/or familial leave by clarifying the term “relative”. Under the Act, “relative” includes, but is not limited to, “child, father, mother, brother, sister and grandparents of the employee or the employee’s spouse as well as those persons’ spouses, their children and their children’s spouses”. The Act also includes a person for whom an employee acts as caregiver, such as a foster child.
(ii) Differential Treatment
As of January 1, 2019, employers may not remunerate an employee at a lower rate of wage than other employees of the same establishment solely because of the employee’s employment status. For example, if the employee came from a placement agency or usually works fewer hours each week, they cannot receive a lower rate of wage than another employee performing the same tasks.
(iii) Prevention of Psychological and Sexual Harassment
The Act codifies existing jurisprudence and expands the definition of psychological harassment to include sexual harassment. The Act expressly requires employers to adopt psychological harassment prevention policies and policies for handling complaints. The definition of harassment is also expanded to include conduct manifested by verbal comments, actions, or gestures of a sexual nature.