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The Quebec Act Respecting Labour Standards (Loi sur les normes du travail) applies to employees who carry out work for employers who have an office or place of work in Quebec.

On June 12, 2018, Bill 176 was passed: it makes some important changes to the Act. The changes were brought in to enhance work-life balance and the protections offered to non-unionized employees, and to adapt the Act to the labour market.

What are the top five things you should know about the recent changes to labour standards in Quebec?
What are the top five things you should know about the recent changes to labour standards in Quebec?

Here are five of the most important areas of change:

  1. Paid and unpaid leave

The definition of “family” has been expanded to include close relations, such as foster families or caregivers. Employees are now entitled to 16 weeks to care for a family member or a close relation, or 27 weeks in the case of a potentially terminal illness, and 36 weeks if it is to care for a child.

Leave because of a serious circumstance, such as death or disappearance of a child, a suicide, or a death caused by a criminal act, has been extended to 104 weeks.

After 3 months of employment, an employee is entitled to 2 paid days off each year to care for a family member. However, management-level employees and construction workers are not eligible for this leave.

The Act now also offers leaves of absence for employees who are victims of domestic violence or sexual violence. The employee may be absent from work for up to 26 weeks in a year without pay, and is entitled to 2 paid days off in the event of domestic violence or sexual violence.

When a statutory holiday does not fall on an employee’s usual day of work, the employer must provide a different day off with pay or holiday pay to that employee.

On January 1, 2019, employees’ vacation entitlement will change, so that employees who have worked 3 years for an employer will become entitled to 3 weeks off with pay. This reduces the number of years an employee must work before earning longer vacation. Vacation pay can be paid out before the leave or during the regular pay period that occurs during or after the vacation is taken.

Bereavement leave has been amended to provide employees with 2 paid days and 3 unpaid days off work in the event of a death of a family member.

Every employee, regardless of the length of service, will be entitled to 2 paid days and 3 unpaid days off work for the birth of a child.

  1. Hours of work

The Act now includes a provision allowing employers and employees to agree to a staggered-hour work schedule without the authorization of the Commission des normes, de l’équite, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail (“the Commission”).

The Act requires that:

  1. The agreement be in writing;
  2. The schedule is not more than 4 weeks;
  3. The number of hours does not exceed the standard by more than 10 hours; and
  4. The employer or employee can terminate the agreement upon giving at least 2 weeks notice before the agreement expires.

Coming January 1, 2019, employees may refuse to work more than 2 hours over their regular daily working hours. Employees will also be entitled to refuse to work additional hours if the employer fails to give at least 5 days advance notice of this requirement. Of course, employees cannot refuse to work additional hours if there is an emergency or if the nature of their job requires that they remain available.

  1. Equal treatment

Employers are now prohibited from paying an employee less or granting less vacation than other employees performing the same work simply because the employee’s status. This will apply, for example, to employees who are hired through a placement agency or who are on contract.

  1. Tip earners

On January 1, 2019, employees who work for tips will have added rights. Employers will have to consider the wages and the tips when calculating the amount to be paid in the case of termination of employment.

Likewise, all other benefits like vacation, holiday pay and paid leaves of absence must be calculated while taking into consideration the amounts earned as tips.

  1. Harassment

The amendments to the Act make it clear that harassment of a sexual nature may also be considered psychological harassment. An employee now has 2 years to bring a complaint of psychological harassment before the Commission. Employers must adopt harassment policies that deal with the various manifestations of sexual harassment.

If you want to learn more about your rights as an employee or an employer subject to the Act, please contact our Employment Practice Group.


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This content is not intended to provide legal advice or opinion as neither can be given without reference to specific events and situations. © 2021 Nelligan O’Brien Payne LLP.

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