Canada Labour Code
The Canada Labour Code is an Act of Parliament
Act of Parliament
An Act of Parliament is a statute enacted as primary legislation by a national or sub-national parliament. In the Republic of Ireland the term Act of the Oireachtas is used, and in the United States the term Act of Congress is used.In Commonwealth countries, the term is used both in a narrow...

 of the Canadian government to consolidate certain statutes respecting labour. The objective of the code is to facilitate production by controlling strikes
Strike action
Strike action, also called labour strike, on strike, greve , or simply strike, is a work stoppage caused by the mass refusal of employees to work. A strike usually takes place in response to employee grievances. Strikes became important during the industrial revolution, when mass labour became...

 & lockouts
Lockout (industry)
A lockout is a work stoppage in which an employer prevents employees from working. This is different from a strike, in which employees refuse to work.- Causes :...

, occupational safety and health
Occupational safety and health
Occupational safety and health is a cross-disciplinary area concerned with protecting the safety, health and welfare of people engaged in work or employment. The goal of all occupational safety and health programs is to foster a safe work environment...

, and some employment standards.

Generally speaking, the code only applies to those industries in which the federal government has jurisdiction
Canadian federalism
Canada is a federation with two distinct jurisdictions of political authority: the country-wide federal government and the ten regionally-based provincial governments. It also has three territorial governments in the far north, though these are subject to the federal government...

 instead of the provinces. These industries include: broadcasting
Broadcasting is the distribution of audio and video content to a dispersed audience via any audio visual medium. Receiving parties may include the general public or a relatively large subset of thereof...

, telecommunications, chartered banks, postal service
Mail, or post, is a system for transporting letters and other tangible objects: written documents, typically enclosed in envelopes, and also small packages are delivered to destinations around the world. Anything sent through the postal system is called mail or post.In principle, a postal service...

, airports and air transportation, shipping
Shipping has multiple meanings. It can be a physical process of transporting commodities and merchandise goods and cargo, by land, air, and sea. It also can describe the movement of objects by ship.Land or "ground" shipping can be by train or by truck...

 and navigation, interprovincial or international transportation (i.e., road, railway, ferry or pipeline). It also applies to businesses in the Territories, on First Nations reserves
Indian reserve
In Canada, an Indian reserve is specified by the Indian Act as a "tract of land, the legal title to which is vested in Her Majesty, that has been set apart by Her Majesty for the use and benefit of a band." The Act also specifies that land reserved for the use and benefit of a band which is not...

, and certain crown corporations. It also applies to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police
Royal Canadian Mounted Police
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police , literally ‘Royal Gendarmerie of Canada’; colloquially known as The Mounties, and internally as ‘The Force’) is the national police force of Canada, and one of the most recognized of its kind in the world. It is unique in the world as a national, federal,...

 (RCMP)and the military
Canadian Forces
The Canadian Forces , officially the Canadian Armed Forces , are the unified armed forces of Canada, as constituted by the National Defence Act, which states: "The Canadian Forces are the armed forces of Her Majesty raised by Canada and consist of one Service called the Canadian Armed Forces."...

, and those covered under the (now repealed) Public Service Staff Relations Act (RS 1985, c. P-35) or its successor Public Service Modernization Act (2003, c. 22).


Industrialization in Canada, as elsewhere, brought with it increasingly poor employment standards. Employers often took advantage of their workers by providing them with little to no health and safety elements in the workplace and no job security
Job security
Job security is the probability that an individual will keep his or her job; a job with a high level of job security is such that a person with the job would have a small chance of becoming unemployed.-Factors affecting job security:...

. When the workers formed unions
Trade union
A trade union, trades union or labor union is an organization of workers that have banded together to achieve common goals such as better working conditions. The trade union, through its leadership, bargains with the employer on behalf of union members and negotiates labour contracts with...

, negotiations between the employer and union often dragged on or broke down completely. In these instances the unions would use techniques such as strikes and sabotage to impress on the employer the idea that the workers had rights as humans and even deserved respect. The unionism would then often build solidarity between workers, even in different industries. In response, the Canadian government established the Conciliation Act of 1900. This act created the federal Department of Labour whose purpose was to help settle labour disputes and promote fair wages and proper conditions for workers.

The Department had little success but determined that they required the authority to impose conciliation
Conciliation is an alternative dispute resolution process whereby the parties to a dispute agree to utilize the services of a conciliator, who then meets with the parties separately in an attempt to resolve their differences...

 amongst the union and employer. After the 1906 Lethbridge
Lethbridge is a city in the province of Alberta, Canada, and the largest city in southern Alberta. It is Alberta's fourth-largest city by population after Calgary, Edmonton and Red Deer, and the third-largest by area after Calgary and Edmonton. The nearby Canadian Rockies contribute to the city's...

 coalfield strike, this requirement became paramount and was introduced in the Industrial Disputes Investigation (IDI) Act of 1907. This act also introduced compulsory investigation of labour disputes, a prohibition of work stoppages pending this investigation, and the requirement for compromise. As the industries continued to resist the demands laid down by the unions, the organizations grew larger and began to plan large-scale tactics such as the Winnipeg General Strike. This created even more fear in the government concerning unions and led to further legislation.

During World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, the wartime government suspended provincial labour legislation and the IDI act. However, the Wartime Labour Relations Regulations (Order in Council P.C. 1003) of 1944 introduced the provisions for certification of unions, leading to the temporary dissolution and outlawing of the major solidarity unions
Solidarity unionism
Solidarity unionism is a model of labour organizing in which the workers themselves formulate strategy and take action against the company directly without mediation from government or paid union representatives. It is a key pillar of anarcho-syndicalism...

 in Canada (including the IWW
Industrial Workers of the World
The Industrial Workers of the World is an international union. At its peak in 1923, the organization claimed some 100,000 members in good standing, and could marshal the support of perhaps 300,000 workers. Its membership declined dramatically after a 1924 split brought on by internal conflict...

 and the One Big Union
One Big Union (Canada)
The One Big Union was a Canadian syndicalist trade union active primarily in the Western part of the country. It was formally founded in Calgary on June 4, 1919 but lost most members by 1922. It finally merged into the Canadian Labour Congress in 1956.-Background:Towards the end of World War I, a...

). The WLRR also introduced the duty to meet and bargain in good faith
Good faith
In philosophy, the concept of Good faith—Latin bona fides “good faith”, bona fide “in good faith”—denotes sincere, honest intention or belief, regardless of the outcome of an action; the opposed concepts are bad faith, mala fides and perfidy...

, prohibitions of unfair labour practices
Unfair labor practice
In United States labor law, the term unfair labor practice refers to certain actions taken by employers or unions that violate the National Labor Relations Act and other legislation...

, and the introduction of a labour relations board.

In 1948, this Order in Council and the IDI act were consolidated into the Industrial Relations and Disputes Investigation Act. In 1967, this act was consolidated, along with other statutes, as Part V of the Canada Labour Code, (S.C. 1966-67, c. 62).

Significant amendments were made to this part of the code in 1973. These amendments included extending bargaining rights to some previously excluded groups (e.g., supervisors, employed professionals, etc.) and expanding the jurisdiction of the labour relations board to include enforcement and remedial powers. Also, provisions for adjustments to technological changes were introduced. Finally, in 1988 the Code was reissued as part of the Revised Statutes of Canada, (R.S.C. 1985, c. L-2.), wherein Part V became Part I.


The Act is divided into three distinct parts. The first part deals with collective bargaining
Collective bargaining
Collective bargaining is a process of negotiations between employers and the representatives of a unit of employees aimed at reaching agreements that regulate working conditions...

 between unions and employers. It comes mostly from the Industrial Relations and Disputes Investigation Act of 1948. The second part deals with health & safety in the workplace
Workplace safety
Workplace safety & health is a category of management responsibility in places of employment.To ensure the safety and health of workers, managers establish a focus on safety that can include elements such as:* management leadership and commitment...

. The third part deals with employment standards but defers mostly to Provincial legislation for each province of employment.

Part 1: Industrial Relations

This part of the act is divided into seven divisions and deals with collective bargaining
Collective bargaining
Collective bargaining is a process of negotiations between employers and the representatives of a unit of employees aimed at reaching agreements that regulate working conditions...

, dispute resolution
Dispute resolution
Dispute resolution is the process of resolving disputes between parties.-Methods:Methods of dispute resolution include:* lawsuits * arbitration* collaborative law* mediation* conciliation* many types of negotiation* facilitation...

, strikes
Strike action
Strike action, also called labour strike, on strike, greve , or simply strike, is a work stoppage caused by the mass refusal of employees to work. A strike usually takes place in response to employee grievances. Strikes became important during the industrial revolution, when mass labour became...

 and lockouts
Lockout (industry)
A lockout is a work stoppage in which an employer prevents employees from working. This is different from a strike, in which employees refuse to work.- Causes :...

. It, first of all, establishes basic freedoms, in accordance with Convention C87
Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention, 1948
The Convention concerning Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise or Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention is an International Labour Organization Convention...

 of the International Labour Organization
International Labour Organization
The International Labour Organization is a specialized agency of the United Nations that deals with labour issues pertaining to international labour standards. Its headquarters are in Geneva, Switzerland. Its secretariat — the people who are employed by it throughout the world — is known as the...

, by setting out that employees are “free to join the trade union of their choice and to participate in its lawful activities” [s.8(1)] and employers, likewise, are free to organize.

Divisions III, IV, V.1, and VI, set out the procedures and regulations for collective bargaining. In short, a trade union for employees or an organization representing employers must first be certified by the Canada Labour Relations Board, whose composition and procedures are detailed in Division II. The act places a duty on the two sides to meet and negotiate “in good faith and make every reasonable effort to enter into a collective agreement” [s.50 (a) i,ii].

The role of the Canada Labour Relations Board is to interpret the code and to investigate allegations of unfair labour practices and failures to bargain in good faith. Division V details the role of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service. It is “responsible for fostering harmonious relations between trade unions and employers by assisting them in the negotiation of collective agreements and their renewal.” [s.70.1(1)] They are employees of the Human Resources Development Canada and report to the Minister of Labour
Minister of Labour (Canada)
The Minister of Labour is the Minister of the Crown in the Canadian Cabinet who is responsible for setting national labour standards and federal labour dispute mechanisms...


Divisions V.1 and VI set out conditions for strikes and lockouts. Before such work stoppages occur a secret ballot
Secret ballot
The secret ballot is a voting method in which a voter's choices in an election or a referendum are anonymous. The key aim is to ensure the voter records a sincere choice by forestalling attempts to influence the voter by intimidation or bribery. The system is one means of achieving the goal of...

 vote must result in a majority wishing to proceed with a work stoppage. However, this cannot occur during the term of an agreement, only once it expires. The union (for strikes) or the employers (for lockouts) must give the Minister of Labour 72 hours' notice before the work stoppage can occur. The Minister can prevent or cease a work stoppage by appointing a conciliation officer, commissioner, or board, to mediate negotiations. Section 100 of the Code sets a limit of $1000 per day is set for illegal lockouts or strikes.

Also of note, Division IV sets out special arrangements for interruptions in employment due to technological change. It also allows union dues to be deducted from an employers wages, and, in case of religious objections, forward the amount deducted to a registered charity
Charitable organization
A charitable organization is a type of non-profit organization . It differs from other types of NPOs in that it centers on philanthropic goals A charitable organization is a type of non-profit organization (NPO). It differs from other types of NPOs in that it centers on philanthropic goals A...

 mutually agreed on by the employee and the trade union. Division V.1 prohibits work stoppages “to the extent necessary to prevent an immediate and serious danger to the safety or health of the public.” [s.87.4(1)]

Part 2: Occupational Health and Safety

This part of the act deals with maintaining the health
Health is the level of functional or metabolic efficiency of a living being. In humans, it is the general condition of a person's mind, body and spirit, usually meaning to be free from illness, injury or pain...

 and safety
Safety is the state of being "safe" , the condition of being protected against physical, social, spiritual, financial, political, emotional, occupational, psychological, educational or other types or consequences of failure, damage, error, accidents, harm or any other event which could be...

 of workers in the workplace. It focuses on the recognition and prevention
Hazard prevention
Hazard prevention refers to the prevention of risks. The first and most effective stage of hazard prevention and emergency management is the elimination of hazards...

 of hazard
A hazard is a situation that poses a level of threat to life, health, property, or environment. Most hazards are dormant or potential, with only a theoretical risk of harm; however, once a hazard becomes "active", it can create an emergency situation. A hazard does not exist when it is not...

s. The beginning of this part states the purpose here “is to prevent accidents and injury to health arising out of, linked with or occurring in the course of employment.” [s.122.1]

Sections 124 and 125 set out the duties of employers with regard to the health and safety of their employees. A list is provided of 45 general and specific duties for the employer to follow. For example, these duties include providing first-aid facilities, potable water, sanitary and personal facilities (i.e., washroom
A public toilet is a room or small building containing one or more toilets and possibly also urinals which is available for use by the general public, or in a broader meaning of "public", by customers of other...

s), prescribed safety materials, equipment, devices and clothing, and so on. These duties extend beyond the workplace and include all areas in which an employee may travel in the course of a work day. The employers are also responsible for third party contractors and any other people with whom they are in an employment relationship. Sections 122.3 and 132 establish conditions for employees with a special needs and pregnant and nursing employees.

Section 126 sets out the duties of employees. It is their duty to “take all reasonable and necessary precautions to ensure the health and safety of the employee, the other employees and any person likely to be affected by the employee's acts or omissions” [s.126(1)(c)] and to use any safety features that the employer provides.

In cases of conflict between the employee and employer sections 127.1 and 128 set out a resolution process. An employee is permitted to “refuse to use or operate a machine or thing, to work in a place or to perform an activity, if the employee while at work has reasonable cause to believe that the performance of the activity constitutes a danger to the employee or to another employee." [s.128 (1)(c)] All complaint
In legal terminology, a complaint is a formal legal document that sets out the facts and legal reasons that the filing party or parties In legal terminology, a complaint is a formal legal document that sets out the facts and legal reasons (see: cause of action) that the filing party or parties In...

s must be reasonably investigated to find if the claim is justified.

In order to facilitate investigations sections 134 to 140 establish requirements, regulations, and procedures for health and safety committees, representatives, and officers. For workplaces with 20 or more employees a committee must be established consisting of at least two employees. For workplaces with fewer than 20 employees at least one representative must be selected by the non-managerial employee as a Health and Safety Representative. The employer must be readily accessible to this representative in order to address health and safety matters. Regional Health and Safety Officers are appointed by the Minister of Labour and investigate incidents and complaints concerning health and safety in the workplace. Violations for this part of the Labour Code can be punishable by up to two years in jail
A prison is a place in which people are physically confined and, usually, deprived of a range of personal freedoms. Imprisonment or incarceration is a legal penalty that may be imposed by the state for the commission of a crime...

 and a $1,000,000 fine as set out in section 148. A death or injury that resulted in combination with a violation of this part of the act can be viewed as a criminal act and prosecuted as such.

It should also be noted that special conditions are set out for coal mines. Section 137.1 establishes the composition, procedures and regulations of a Coal Mining Safety Commission. Section 125.3 requires employers to submit their plans and procedures to this commission.

Part 3: Employment Standards Act

The third part of the code is divided into 16 divisions which deal with terms and conditions of employment concerning hours, wages, leave, holidays, and sexual harassment. It also sets the conditions for the termination of employment.

Division I establishes the eight hour day and forty hour week but permits averaging if the profession demands extended hours. Workers must get at least one full day, “Sunday shall be the normal day of rest,” [s.173] and overtime is paid at least one and one-half times the normal wage. Division II establishes that the Province of employment’s minimum wage
Minimum wage
A minimum wage is the lowest hourly, daily or monthly remuneration that employers may legally pay to workers. Equivalently, it is the lowest wage at which workers may sell their labour. Although minimum wage laws are in effect in a great many jurisdictions, there are differences of opinion about...

, with the exception of those based on age discrimination
Ageism, also called age discrimination is stereotyping of and discrimination against individuals or groups because of their age. It is a set of beliefs, attitudes, norms, and values used to justify age based prejudice, discrimination, and subordination...

, shall be used for workers in industries under federal jurisdiction. This division also deals with wage deduction with respect to room, board, uniform
A uniform is a set of standard clothing worn by members of an organization while participating in that organization's activity. Modern uniforms are worn by armed forces and paramilitary organizations such as police, emergency services, security guards, in some workplaces and schools and by inmates...

s, tools, etc. Division III refers to the Canadian Human Rights Act
Canadian Human Rights Act
The Canadian Human Rights Act is a statute originally passed by the Parliament of Canada in 1977 with the express goal of extending the law to ensure equal opportunity to individuals who may be victims of discriminatory practices based on a set prohibited grounds such as gender, disability, or...

 for prohibition to discriminatory
Discrimination is the prejudicial treatment of an individual based on their membership in a certain group or category. It involves the actual behaviors towards groups such as excluding or restricting members of one group from opportunities that are available to another group. The term began to be...

 wage practices. These first three divisions should also be read with the Fair Wages and Hours of Labour Act (R.S. 1985, c. L-4 ) which concerns public works and those on government contracts. Also, division XV requires that payment of wages must be made within thirty days.

Divisions IV and V establish the amount, length and pay for vacations and holidays. Division VI allows the Governor in Council to make special regulations for industries that use multiple employers for the same job.

Divisions VII, VIII, XIII, and XIII.1 make arrangements for maternity
Maternity or motherhood is the social and legal acknowledgment of the parental relationship between a mother and her child.It is specially related with the protection of the baby and the mother within and after the childbirth.-See also:...

, parental, compassionate care, bereavement, and sick leave
Sick leave
Sick leave is time off from work that workers can use during periods of temporary illness to stay home and address their health and safety needs without losing pay. Some workplaces offer paid sick time as a matter of workplace policy, and in few jurisdictions it is codified into law...

. These sections say that “no employer shall dismiss, suspend, lay off, demote or discipline an employee because of absence due to illness
Illness is a state of poor health. Illness is sometimes considered another word for disease. Others maintain that fine distinctions exist...

 or injury
-By cause:*Traumatic injury, a body wound or shock produced by sudden physical injury, as from violence or accident*Other injuries from external physical causes, such as radiation injury, burn injury or frostbite*Injury from infection...

…”[s.239(1)], or any other of these aforementioned leave periods and that “pension
In general, a pension is an arrangement to provide people with an income when they are no longer earning a regular income from employment. Pensions should not be confused with severance pay; the former is paid in regular installments, while the latter is paid in one lump sum.The terms retirement...

, health and disability benefits and the seniority of any employee…[during] a leave of absence…shall accumulate during the entire period of the leave.”[s209.2(1)] Specifically, an employee is permitted 17 weeks of maternity leave, 37 weeks for parental leave, 8 weeks for compassionate care leave, and 3 days for bereavement leave. The leave period, and its associated benefits, due to illness or injury, depends upon the nature of the illness or injury and the period of absence.

Divisions IX to XII, XIV set the procedures for termination of employees. Division IX deals with lay-offs of 50 or more people wherein a 16 week notice must be given to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and the Canada Employment Insurance Commission and a 2 week notice to individual employees. Division X deals with the termination of fewer than 50 people wherein 2 weeks' notice or 2 weeks' pay in lieu of notice must be given to the employee. Division XI deals with the allotment of severance
-Entertainment:*Severance , the 2003 album of Australian melodic death metal band Daysend*Severance , the 2006 British horror film* "Severance", a song by Dead Can Dance from the 1988 album The Serpent's Egg...

 pay and division XII prohibits termination or any other disciplinary action due to any garnishment
A garnishment is a means of collecting a monetary judgment against a defendant by ordering a third party to pay money, otherwise owed to the defendant, directly to the plaintiff...

 proceedings of any employee. Division XIV makes provisions in cases of unjust dismissals. A complaint of an unjust dismissal may be made to an inspector who in turn can require the employer to provide a written statement of the reasons for the dismissal. If the inspector cannot settle the dispute then the Minister may appoint an adjudicator to resolve the dispute.

Division XV.1 prohibits sexual harassment
Sexual harassment
Sexual harassment, is intimidation, bullying or coercion of a sexual nature, or the unwelcome or inappropriate promise of rewards in exchange for sexual favors. In some contexts or circumstances, sexual harassment is illegal. It includes a range of behavior from seemingly mild transgressions and...

 by saying that “every employee is entitled to employment free of sexual harassment.” [s.247.2]. It defines sexual harassment as “any conduct, comment, gesture or contact of a sexual nature (a) that is likely to cause offence or humiliation
Humiliation is the abasement of pride, which creates mortification or leads to a state of being humbled or reduced to lowliness or submission. It can be brought about through bullying, intimidation, physical or mental mistreatment or trickery, or by embarrassment if a person is revealed to have...

to any employee; or (b) that might, on reasonable grounds, be perceived by that employee as placing a condition of a sexual nature on employment or on any opportunity for training or promotion.” [s.247.1]

External links

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