Labour and employment law considerations

In Canada, labour and employment relations are, for the most part, governed by the laws of the province in which an employee works. The term “labour relations” is used to refer to the union context, while “employment relations” is a general term covering employment laws and practices, which are not specific to trade unions. Federal jurisdiction in the labour and employment field is limited to federal works or undertakings, including interprovincial transportation, pipelines, telecommunications, broadcasting and banking. All other businesses are provincially regulated. A manufacturing operation, for example, with plants in different provinces may, find itself subject to the laws of several jurisdictions.

Notwithstanding the different jurisdictions, as a general rule, all Canadian jurisdictions are consistent in overall direction. However, the specifics of legislation and the administering agencies vary greatly from province to province.

In some jurisdictions, directors and officers of a corporation may be held personally liable for a variety of matters relating to labour and employment law. For example, in Ontario, directors of a corporation may be jointly and severally liable to the employees of the corporation for up to six months’ unpaid wages and 12 months’ vacation pay. In Alberta, directors of a corporation may be jointly and severally liable to the employees of the corporation for up to six months’ unpaid wages, while in British Columbia directors are personally liable for two months. Directors may also be exposed to liability under occupational health and safety legislation for failure of a corporation to comply with safety regulations. In Québec, they can be jointly liable for up to six months unpaid wages (including vacation pay).

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