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Canada HR Recap 2021: Important highlights

Feb 2, 2022 | 2021, Alberta, British Columbia, COVID19, HR Canada, HR Recap, Ontario, Saskatchewan, Workplace

The year 2021 saw Canada Hrecording several glorious moments with regard to labour laws. From Ontario’s Working for Workers Act to British Columbia’s historic paid sick leave, it has been an eventful year. Let’s take a quick recap of HR updates that made headlines in 2021.


  1. Ontario Extending COVID-19 Paid Sick Days


The Ontario government has extended its Worker Income Protection Benefit program, which provides paid sick days, until July 31, 2022, to continue keeping workers safe and ensure they do not lose pay if they need to miss work for reasons related to COVID-19. Employees can continue to access this paid leave to get tested, vaccinated, self-isolate, or care for a family member.


Extending the COVID-19 paid leave program will help more workers take time off to get their booster shots and help more parents take time to get their children vaccinated. To date, the program has helped over 235,000 people stay safe without worrying about losing pay.


2. The Ontario Not-for-Profit Corporations Act is in force!


The Ontario Not-for-Profit Corporations Act (ONCA) has been proclaimed. The act proclaimed on October 19, 2021, is the enabling corporate legal framework for most nonprofits incorporated under provincial law. Know more about ONCA here.


3. Ontario Supporting Not-For-Profit Long-Term Care Homes


The Ontario government is now providing loan guarantees to select not-for-profit homes to secure development loans from Infrastructure Ontario to help increase long-term care capacity in communities across the province.


The program is part of a $6.4 billion investment to deliver 30,000 net new beds over ten years.


4. Working for Workers Act, 2021


Ontario passed the Working for Workers Act, 2021, to make the province the best place for people to work, live and raise a family. As per the act, employers with 25 or more employees must have a written policy about employees disconnecting from their job at the end of the workday to help employees spend more time with their families.


The new legislation also banned the use of non-compete agreements that prevent people from exploring other work opportunities to make it easier for workers to advance in their careers.


5. OHRC Policy Statement on Covid-19 Vaccine mandate


As per the Ontario Human Rights Commission’s policy statement on COVID-19 vaccine mandates and proof of vaccine certificates, an individual who decides not to take the vaccine based on his/her personal preferences does not have the right to accommodation under the Code. Although the Code prohibits discrimination based on creed, personal preferences or singular beliefs do not amount to a creed for the Code.


6. Ontario Providing Financial Relief to Employers


Ontario’s Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) is cutting premium rates in 2022 by $168 million, bringing the total reduction in premiums since 2018 to $2.4 billion. In addition, the government is intending to introduce legislation that, if passed, would allow for a significant portion of the WSIB’s current reserve, currently valued at $6.1 billion, to be distributed to safe employers. This proposed change would help employers cope with the impacts of COVID-19.


The Ontario government is also proposing to enable the WSIB to work with the Canada Revenue Agency to streamline remittances for businesses. This change would reduce administrative costs and burdens by giving businesses an efficient one-stop shop for submitting payroll deductions.




  1. New rules protecting young workers in effect Oct. 15


Changes to employment standards that better protect young people in BC came into force on October 15, 2021. The changes raise the general working age in British Columbia from 12 to 16 and define the types of jobs that are appropriate for those under 16.


The new rules do not prevent children from babysitting or delivering newspapers part-time, or students from working in a work-study or work experience class, which are among the jobs excluded from the new rules.


2. Five paid sick days coming Jan. 1


Effective January 1, 2022, the vast majority of workers in British Columbia no longer have to choose between going to work sick or losing wages, as B.C.’s first-ever permanent paid sick leave comes into effect. On November 24, 2021, the government announced that a minimum of five days of sick leave per year would be provided to all employees covered by the Employment Standards Act (ESA). Both full- and part-time employees are eligible for this benefit. This entitlement is in addition to the three days of unpaid sick leave currently provided by the ESA. Paid sick leave will be standard for workers in British Columbia beginning Jan. 1, 2022, with a minimum of five paid sick days each year.


B.C. becomes the first province in Canada to legislate this level of paid time off for workers who fall ill. This new workplace protection applies to all workers covered by the Employment Standards Act, including part-time workers.




  1. More support for businesses in Alberta through REP


Alberta’s government will soon offer a one-time Restriction Exemption Program implementation grant of $2000 and an additional $1 million as REP training grant to small & medium-sized businesses that are eligible for and choose to implement the REP, requiring proof of vaccination, a negative test result or medical exemption. Alberta is the first jurisdiction in Canada to offer businesses a payment to offset costs associated with proof of vaccination program.


2. Changes to occupational health and safety (OHS) laws


An updated OHS Act and revised regulations took effect on December 1, 2021. The new act eliminates duplication and simplifies language to make OHS laws easier to understand and follow, resulting in healthier and safer workplaces and supporting investment attraction and job creation. Workers continue to have the same rights and protections under the revised OHS laws.




Amendments To The Employment Act w.e.f January 1, 2022


Students, contract workers and volunteers in Saskatchewan will now be protected against harassment including sexual harassment while in the workplace.


The legislation will come into force on Jan 1, 2022, that clarifies that the definition of harassment includes any unwelcome action of a sexual nature.




  1. Revisions in Minimum Wage


There has been a substantial increase in the minimum wage of Canadian provinces, especially British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario. The minimum wage in Ontario is now CAD14.35 an hour. Check out the current minimum wage across Canada:


Province Minimum Hourly Wage Notes
Alberta $15.00 Effective as of October 1, 2018.
British Columbia $15.20 Effective as of June 1, 2021.
Manitoba $11.95 Effective as of October 1, 2021.
New Brunswick $11.75 Effective as of April 1, 2021. The minimum wage in NB is adjusted annually on April 1 relative to the Consumer Price Index.
Newfoundland & Labrador $12.75 Effective as of October 1, 2021.
Northwest Territories $15.20 Effective as of September 1, 2021.
Nova Scotia $12.95 Effective as of April 1, 2021.
Nunavut $16.00 Effective as of April 1, 2020. The minimum wage in NU is reviewed annually on April 1.
Ontario $14.95 Effective January 1, 2022, minimum wage will raise to $15.00
Prince Edward Island $13.00 Effective as of April 1, 2021.
Quebec $13.50 Effective as of May 1, 2021.
Saskatchewan $11.81 Effective as of October 1, 2021.
Yukon $15.20 Effective as of April 1, 2021.


2. National Day for Truth & Reconciliation


The Government of Canada designated September 30 as National Day for Truth and Reconciliation – a federal statutory holiday. The day honours the lost children and Survivors of residential schools, their families and communities. Public commemoration of the tragic and painful history and ongoing impacts of residential schools is a vital component of the reconciliation process.


3. COVID-19: Proof of Vaccination

Many provinces and territories have created a secure proof of vaccination document which is widely called the vaccine passport. This proof may be used for activities like going to restaurants, meetings and sporting events. Quebec became the first Canadian province to mandate COVID-19 vaccine passports, as of Sept. 1 followed by others such as Ontario, BC and Manitoba.

4. The federal minimum wage rise to $15 per hour on Dec 29


In Budget 2021, the Government of Canada proposed a $15 per hour federal minimum wage.


The Minister of Labour highlighted that this important change will take effect on December 29 for workers in the federally regulated private sector. For those working in provinces or territories where the minimum wage is higher, the higher wage will apply.


5. Prohibition of misclassification of employees (effective January 1, 2021)

Employers are now prohibited from misclassifying employees in order to avoid their obligations under the Canada Labour Code. Any employer who misclassifies an employee is in contravention of the Code. They may be subject to enforcement action by the Labour Program, up to and including an administrative monetary penalty or prosecution.

6. Administrative Monetary Penalty on violation of Canada Labour Code (effective January 1, 2021)

Under the new Part IV of the Code and the Administrative Monetary Penalties (Canada Labour Code) Regulations, employers who violate Part II (Occupational Health and Safety) and Part III (Labour Standards) of the Code may now receive an administrative monetary penalty of up to $250,000. Employers who receive a penalty may also be publicly named as violators.