Changes to the Canada Labour Code, Part II effective October 31, 2014

Economic Action Plan 2013 Act, No.2, received royal assent on December 12, 2013, and resulted in several major amendments to the Canada Labour Code (Code). These amendments will come into force on October 31, 2014, strengthen the internal responsibility system and promote internal resolution for occupational health and safety issues.

What amendments are being made to Part II of the Code?

A stronger internal responsibility system

The internal responsibility system is the cornerstone of Part II of the Code, giving employers and employees joint responsibility for the safety of all workers while at their workplace. Employees and employers are best placed to assess and determine most effectively the particular workplace hazards and health and safety needs of employees. To that end, the health and safety committee or health and safety representative's participation in refusal to work investigations is essential. Workplace parties are mandated to get involved in occupational health and safety issues. For further information, please consult the pamphlets on committees and representatives:

A clearer definition of "danger"

The definition of "danger" has been clarified to ensure that work refusals are used only when employees are facing an imminent or serious threat to their life or health. These amendments ensure that employers and employees assess and address occupational health and safety issues in a collaborative manner before involving the Labour Program of Employment and Social Development Canada.

A restructured process for the right to refuse dangerous work

The refusal to work process has been amended to clarify when the employer and health and safety committee (or representative) must conduct their investigations and the Labour Program has developed a report template that can be used to record the findings. For further information, please consult Information document 4, "Right to Refuse Dangerous Work" and a series of questions and answers pertaining to the restructured process.

New provisions for the Minister of Labour

The amendments will provide the Minister of Labour with the powers, duties and functions previously conferred on health and safety officers. The Minister will also have the authority, under subsection 140(1) of the Code, to delegate those powers, duties or functions to any qualified person or class of persons. Official representatives of the Minister of Labour are available if you require further information on these amendments and requirements under Part II of the Canada Labour Code and its regulations.

The amendments also allow for the grouping of work refusals with respect to the same employer and that involve substantially the same issues. Furthermore, the Minister will have the authority to decline to investigate refusals to work which can be more effectively dealt with under another act or which are deemed to be trivial, frivolous, vexatious, or made in bad faith. The Minister may also determine that a work refusal is not permitted because the danger is a normal condition of employment.

Should you require more information, please contact any of our regional offices.