Understanding employment standards when you are a job seeker or someone who is new to the workforce can be a daunting task. It’s a good thing that knowing all of the legal ins-and-outs of employment is your employer’s responsibility, right?
It is very important that you know your rights as a worker in BC. If you rely solely on others to know and respect your rights for you, you could find yourself being treated unfairly. Some employers may not be well versed in the Employment Standards Act. And even worse, occasionally an employer may try to manipulate the Act or take advantage of your ignorance.
Have a read through the following six (6) scenarios and test how well you understand BC’s basic employment standards.
Jane works as a cashier, and has to balance her till at the end of each shift. Normally Jane’s till balances, but sometimes she is over or under by a couple of dollars. This is considered acceptable by her employer, especially on busy sale days when Jane is serving long lines of customers. After an especially busy sale day, Jane counts her till and discovers that she is under by $60. Jane’s employer tells her that he is going to deduct the missing amount from her next paycheck. Jane feels this is unfair.
This is fair
This is unfair
Jane is right! A cash shortage, even as a result of cashier error, is considered a cost of doing business. An employer may not make any unauthorized deductions from an employee’s wages. If an employee has continual cash shortfalls, the employee may be terminated, but the employer cannot recover any lost revenue from the employee.
Learn more: Section 21 – Deductions
Jerry is scheduled to work a 4 hour shift on Tuesday. When he arrives for his shift, his manager tells him that they don’t have any work for him to do that day, so Jerry goes home. When Jerry gets his paycheck, he notices that he wasn’t paid for his shift on Tuesday. His employer tells Jerry that because he was sent home, he didn’t work and therefore wouldn’t get paid. Jerry tells his employer that because he showed up for work, he should still get paid.
He should be paid
Jerry gets paid, but only for two hours of his shift. If an employee shows up for a regularly scheduled shift and there is no work available, the employer is required to pay two hours of wages to the employee for that shift. If the employee is sent home for another reason, such as being unfit to work, the employer is not required to pay the employee.
He shouldn’t be paid
Learn more: Section 34 – Minimum daily hours
Jennifer gets a job as a dishwasher in a busy restaurant. Jennifer works an 8 hour shift, and gets a half hour break for lunch half way through her shift. Jennifer is a smoker so she also goes out for a smoke break a couple of times during each shift. One day there is a spill in the kitchen, and the Chef calls Jennifer over to clean it up. Jennifer is not at her post, and instead the Chef finds her outside having a cigarette. The Chef tells her that she is not allowed to take smoke breaks, and if he catches her again, he will have to write her up. Jennifer argues back that she has a right to take smoke breaks because she is working an 8 hour shift with only a lunch break provided.
A smoke break is a right
A smoke break is a privilege
An employee must not work more than 5 consecutive hours without a 1/2 hour meal break. Some employers choose to give their employees coffee breaks or smoke breaks, but this is not a requirement.
Learn more: Section 32 – Meal breaks
Jared has just started a new job, and has been working full time for two weeks. Jared is given a day off for a Statutory holiday, but notices that he didn’t receive payment for the stat on his next paycheck. Jared is confused because he thought that all full time workers would receive stat pay.
He should get stat pay
He should not get stat pay
Because Jared had only been working for two weeks prior to the statutory holiday, he is not eligible for stat pay. Anyone, full or part time, who is employed for at least 30 days of the month prior to the stat, and works for at least 15 of those days, will be eligible to receive stat pay.
Learn more: Part 5 – Statutory Holidays
Jessica works as a waitress and is often asked to work split shifts to cover breakfast and dinner. The breakfast shift is from 7 am to 11 am. The dinner shift begins at 5 pm and often goes until 9 pm. Jessica thinks that she should be getting overtime pay because her split shift stretches over 14 hours. Jessica’s employer disagrees, because she is only working a total of 8 hours a day.
She should get overtime pay
She should not get overtime pay
This is a tricky one! Because Jessica is only working 8 hours in total, she is not entitled to overtime pay from her employer. However, by scheduling Jessica to work a split shift starting at 7 am and ending at 9 pm, Jessica’s employer is actually in violation of the Employment Standards Act, which says that a split shift must be completed within 12 hours of starting work.
Learn more: Section 33 – Split shifts
Section 35 – Maximum hours of work before overtime applies
John has a newborn baby at home, and has applied for parental leave. His store manager tells John that if he goes on leave he will not be able to come back to the same position he has now. The manager says it is not normal for men to take parental leave, and suggests that it would be better if John’s wife took the leave instead. John calls head office and reports his store manager for discrimination, saying his employee rights are being violated.
This is discrimination
A pregnant employee is entitled to up to 17 weeks of pregnancy leave, plus an additional 35 weeks of parental leave. A parent other than the one who gave birth (including an adoptive parent) can take parental leave instead of the birth parent, and is entitled to 37 weeks of unpaid leave. This means that it is within John’s right to go on parental leave, and his manager is required to secure his position for when he returns from leave. It is discrimination for John to be denied leave or to lose his job simply because his manager does not believe men should take parental leave.
This is not discrimination
Learn more: Section 51 – Parental leave
Read more about discrimination in the BC Human Rights Code: Human Rights Code, Section 13 – Discrimination in employment