Know Your Labour Rights: Bill 176 Explained

In June of last year, the Quebec National Assembly unanimously passed Bill 176. The Bill made a number of changes to the Quebec Labour Code, some of which came into effect in June 2018, while others were implemented on January 1. The Labour Code is enforced by the Commission des normes, de l’équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail (CNESSET).

Most of the changes increase the rights of workers in matters of vacation time and work scheduling. The Bill also stresses the need for psychological and sexual harassment policies in the workplace. Some of the most relevant points of Bill 176 are detailed below:

  • All employers must adopt psychological harassment policies with provisions for both prevention and the processing of complaints. Harassment is defined as “vexatious behavior in the form of repeated conduct, verbal comments, actions or gestures that are hostile or unwarranted, affect the employee’s dignity or psychological or physical integrity, or make the work environment harmful.” Furthermore, these policies must specifically address “verbal comments, actions, or gestures of a sexual nature.” Employees have two years to file formal complaints of harassment with the CNESSET, lengthened from the previous 90-day limit.
  • An employee who is a survivor of domestic or sexual violence may be absent from work up to 26 weeks over a 12-month period. The law does not require employers to compensate employees during this absence.
  • Employees have the right to refuse to work if they have not been informed at least five days in advance that they must work. However, this rule does not apply if the nature of their work requires them to be available. Employees may also refuse to work more than two hours beyond their usual working time, a reduction from the four hours previously allowed.
  • Employers are mandated to provide paid vacation time to employees. The amount of vacation time allotted per worker is determined by how long they have continuously been employed by their employer. Employees who have been continuously employed for less than one year are entitled to one day of vacation for each month of work. Employees who have been continuously employed for one to three years are entitled to three weeks of vacation per year, two of which must be consecutive. Employees who have been continuously employed for over three years are entitled to four weeks of vacation, three of which must be consecutive.
  • Employers may not pay employees with differing employment status (such as part-time or full-time) lower wages compared to other employees performing the same work. Furthermore, employers may not treat employees differently in terms of employee benefits or pension plans based on the date that the employee was hired.

If these or any other labour regulations are violated by an employer, non-unionized private-sector employees can file a complaint with CNESSET online or by mail. Unionized employees may file a complaint with either their union or CNESSET.

More information on Bill 176 and the Quebec Labour Code is available on the CNESSET website. However, as of January 11, the website has not been fully updated.