Province introduces legislation to make changes to employment standards

FILE Harry Bains at the B.C. Legislature in Victoria

FILE Harry Bains at the B.C. Legislature in Victoria

The British Columbia government is changing employment standards to protect children on the job after WorkSafeBC paid a total of $5.2 million in work injury claims to children 15 years and under from 2007 to 2017.

The new rules were proposed by Labour Minister Harry Bains Monday in a bill entitled "Employment Standards Amendment Act 2019".

The legislation also removes the "self-help kit" system for employment-standards complaints, meaning under the new rules workers won't have to go to their employers with complaints before formally filing the complaint with the employment-standards branch.

The province has introduced legislation that, it says, will better protect children and youth from unsafe work, and deliver improved support for workers whose rights have been violated.

The NDP government needs the support of the three Green party MLAs to pass the legislation. "These are the kinds of protections British Columbians have told us they want and that we're proud to deliver".

Previously, children as young as 12 could work with special permission from parents and the government. Teens aged 14 and 15 will be able to work provided it is light in nature or in the recorded and live entertainment fields, as long as their parents approve.

His government plans to create a new legal framework for regulating tips and tip pooling, and protecting workers' rights with respect to tips and gratuities.

During a technical briefing, ministry staff said there is evidence kids as young as 12 were working in risky or hazardous environments due to a system that weighted parental consent heavily. "The money is left behind for the service that they provide to the customer". Those days don't have to be taken consecutively.

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He called the unpaid leave for workers fleeing domestic violence, up to 10 nonconsecutive days, "a first step".

A majority of the review panel recommended maintaining B.C.'s current system of secret ballots for union certification in workplaces, which employers have said protects employees from intimidation in a union drive. The leave is available to victims of violence or those hoping to protect their children. This follows changes made at the federal level.

The legislation would "broadly raise the age a child may work from 12 to 16", according to Bains' ministry, while allowing exemptions for 14 and 15 year olds to do light work like stocking shelves at a grocery store or working on a family farm.

The proposed amendments also extend the recovery period for which workers can recover owed wages from their employer to 12 months from six months - with the possibility of extending the period to 24 months under some circumstances, such as in cases involving willful or severe contraventions of the act.

The legislation follows a government-commissioned review a year ago by a three-person panel that represented employers and unions. Technology's role in the workplace and flexibility desired by both employers and employees are mentioned as some of the drivers of the review.

The Employment Standards Branch would also be modernized, and penalties increased, as part of "a more effective compliance and enforcement program", said Bains.

The 2019 budget also included almost $14 million in funding over three years to facilitate the changes.

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