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Labour Minister Bains Unveils Positive Changes To Labour Legislation

By Harinder Mahil

Labour Minister Harry Bains introduced much needed changes to labour legislation bringing some balance that had been tilted in favour of employers during the last liberal government.

One of the key changes to the EmploymentStandards Act, that sets minimum standards for all workers in British Columbia, will raise the age a child may work from 12 to 16, and restrict the kind of hazardous work 16 to 18-year olds can be asked to perform. It was shocking that the previous liberal government allowed children 12 years of age to work in British Columbia. WorkSafeBC figures show that it paid a total of $5.2 million in work injury claims to children 15 years and under from 2007 to 2017.

Another major change to the Employment Standards Act is getting rid of self-help kit when an employee has not been paid his or her wages by an employer. In its 2003 employment standards changes, the previous government required workers to use a new self-help kit and present it to their employer before they could submit a formal complaint to the Employment Standards Branch. This required the employee to go to the same employer that had not paid wages to request that the wages be paid. Many chose not to do so as thus forget about what was owed to them. It was a ridiculous system that only existed in British Columbia.

Labour Minister Harry Bains said the amendments are the most significant update to the act in 15 years and addresses concerns about changes introduced by the former Liberal government in 2003.

“Working people are the lifeblood of this province and yet our employment standards haven’t always protected them,” he said at a news conference. “We are the last jurisdiction in Canada, I think, that doesn’t comply with international standards when it comes to labour.”

The proposed amendments would also protect workers dealing with difficult personal issues. The changes include expanded work-leave protections for workers trying to escape domestic violence that allows time from their jobs to find the solutions they need to make life safer for themselves and their kids.

The proposed amendments would provide up to 10 days of unpaid job-protected leaves and allow workers to receive up to 15 weeks of consecutive unpaid leave.

The legislation would also protect the jobs of workers caring for critically ill family members, providing unpaid leaves of 36 weeks to care for a child and 16 weeks to provide care for an adult.

More importantly the government is providing additional $14-million, three-year increase in funding for enforcement in the provincial budget. That’s enough to hire 40 new enforcement officials this year and as many again in the next two years.

These are important changes that bringBC employmentstandardslegislation in the twenty first century.

I commend Harry Bains and the NDP government for making changes to this significant piece of labour legislation that protects vulnerable workers.

Harinder Mahil is a former commissioner of the British Columbia Human Rights Commission and is presently a director of the Dr. Hari Sharman Foundation.

 

 

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