Quebec is perhaps the most unique province in Canada, particularly when it comes to its legal framework. While most of Canada’s legal system is based on British common law, Quebec has always followed the French tradition of civil law.
Such cultural differences are also reflected in Quebec’s different developmental history. The French language and traditions continue to be important today. Until the mid-1960s, the Church wielded a lot of power. Since then, Quebecois people have turned more and more to the state to protect their rights and liberties.
For this reason, Quebec tends to be even more involved with workplace protections. For staffing agencies hoping to operate in the province, Quebec may be both familiar and new at the same time.
This quick guide will help you understand some of the workplace protections in La Belle Province.
The Legal Framework
Most workplace protections are laid out in The Act respecting labour standards, which was passed in the Quebec National Assembly. In recent years, the provincial government has proposed amendments to the Act, so it’s always a good idea to ensure you’re up to date with the latest requirements.
The Act outlines rules on minimum wage, the length of the workweek, and how many breaks a worker is entitled to take.
It also offers provisions about time off, including vacation time, public holidays, sick days, and other absences.
Other parts of the Act describe how employers must deliver notice of terminations or layoffs. The Act also contains a description of the rights of workers who have been terminated.
This law creates minimum standards that all employers must meet or exceed.
Enforcing the Minimum Standards
A law without enforcement is not usually very effective. That’s why the Commission des normes, de l’equite, de la sante et de la securite du travail, or CNESST, exists. This body is in charge of applying the provisions of the Act.
As the name implies, CNESST oversees labour standards, pay equity, and workplace health and safety.
Employees can submit complaints about employers to CNESST. In some cases, CNESST will issue compensation. It may also act as a mediator between employers and employees.
If CNESST has to pay an employee, it reserves the right to sue the employer to recover the funds.
Who the Act Applies To
The Act respecting labour standards covers most workers in Quebec. There are a few notable exceptions.
It does not apply to federal employees. These workers are governed by federal labour standards instead. In all of Canada, only a small percent of the workforce is federal, with the remaining workers falling under provincial jurisdiction.
The self-employed are also exempt from the provisions of the Act.
Senior management and construction workers are also exempt from some of the Act’s rules. They do have access to protection for leaves, but their workweeks don’t need to conform to the Act.
Other exemptions include students who are working in student placement programs, co-ops, or internships, athletes required to attend school, and people providing homecare for others.
There are also differences among employees in different categories. For example, employees working in a sawmill have a longer standard workweek. This means they don’t need to be paid overtime until they’ve worked more hours than in other industries.
What about Staffing Agencies?
The Act respecting labour standards applies to employees wherever they do their work. It will also apply to you if you have any business operations in Quebec.
Staffing agency owners need to register with CNESST. This measure is designed to weed out “bad apple” staffing agencies. It gives CNESST the power to audit agencies that don’t comply and to penalize employers who work with those agencies.
If you plan to operate in Quebec, make a point of familiarizing yourself with the Act respecting labour standards. It will help you understand your responsibilities as a recruiter in Quebec.