Intended to take effect in January 2019, Quebec’s Bill 176 will affect non-federal employees in Quebec, or about 90 percent of the workforce. This means changes to employment legislation in the province will also affect many staffing firms and employers alike.
Bill 176 seems to be following a trend to update employment legislation taking place across the country. In 2018, both Ontario and Alberta saw new legislation come into effect. Quebec’s proposed legislation seems poised to follow in their footsteps.
Amending Labour Standards
Similar to Ontario and Alberta, Quebec’s Bill 176 is aimed at updating and amending the labour standards. In fact, the proposed law is literally named “An Act to amend the Act respecting labour standards.”
The legislative bill’s title suggests the primary reason for these changes is to facilitate family-work balance. This could have been a response to other provinces surveying their own labour standards. It could also have been a response to the backlash from Quebec nurses facing what they feel is excessive overtime.
Major Changes Ahead
Any time legislation is proposed to make changes to existing labour codes, staffing agency owners should sit up and take notice. Governments can often be reactive, introducing hastily drafted legislation without fully considering the impacts on employers, employees, and the broader society. Ontario’s Bill 148 is a good example. Current federal legislation about legalizing marijuana is yet another.
If Bill 176 does proceed, it would take effect in January 2019, which gives employers little time to prepare for the changes the legislation is proposing to make.
As a staffing agency owner, you too need to be aware of the coming changes. They’ll also affect your business.
What Changes Are Coming?
One of the proposed changes staffing agency owners should pay particular attention to is the prohibition against paying employees lower wages for doing the same tasks in the same establishment. Bill 176 suggests this regulation should apply to all employees, regardless of employment status or rate of pay, such as overtime or holiday pay.
Under Bill 176, an employee will also have the option to refuse to work more than two hours beyond their normal daily hours. Currently, an employee can be asked to remain four hours longer. An employee can also refuse an overtime shift if the employee is not given five days’ notice. Some exemptions will be made.
Vacations and other leaves are also facing changes. Bill 176 will change the length of time an employee must be employed to receive three weeks’ vacation from five years to three. The current requirement to work three continuous months to qualify for up to 26 weeks leave would be eliminated.
Balancing Family and Work
With relation to the “family-work balance” part of the title, changes will affect an employee’s options for personal leave. The law will revise the duration of unpaid leaves of absence depending on circumstances. This includes bereavement leave.
Bill 176 will also address the definition of an “employee relative.” Employees must often take leave to act as a caregiver, and more consideration will be given in these cases. A revised definition would also affect bereavement leave and adoption.
Perhaps the most important change for staffing agency owners operating in Quebec will be licensing. Bill 176 proposes those operating personnel placement agencies or recruitment agencies will need to be issued a licence by CNESST. Employers who work with unlicensed agencies could be fined up to $6,000.
In addition to paying employees equivalent wages, personnel employment agencies will be liable for adhering to these new regulations. This includes holiday pay, vacation pay, and so on.
This is just a brief survey of the changes Bill 176 proposes to the labour standards in Quebec. There are other regulations that will take effect if and when Bill 176 passes. Staffing agency owners should be aware and prepared but also voice their concerns about unintended impacts to the government. Bill 176 isn’t yet law, and amendments are possible.