Reviews and reforms: the future of B.C.'s employment act
It’s a different workplace now, says employment lawyer
Forget traditional nine-to-five jobs — the workplace has shifted radically in the past generation, prompting a group of British Columbian lawyers and researchers to examine if employment legislation has kept up with the recent boom in precarious work.
The B.C. Law Institute is at the tail-end of a three year review of the B.C. Employment Standards Act and is compiling a list of reform recommendations, a draft of which will be available for public input by early next year.
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Tom Beasley, an employment lawyer and chair of the reform project committee, emphasized how long it has been since any changes were made to the province's 1973 Employment Standards Act.
The act itself was largely based on labour statutes going back to the 1900s, he told CBC host of The Early Edition Rick Cluff.
"All they did was take the statutes and plunk them together and that became the different parts of the act," Beasley said. "So really, it's not just 40 years that we haven't done anything in terms of change, it's going back much longer than that."
The Employment Standards Act is the core of every employment relationship in the province, affecting workers with provisions from overtime pay to vacations to statutory holidays, he said.
Realities of workplace
Although many of the principles of the employment act are still valid, Beasley said, they don't reflect the reality of the workplace anymore.
"It's gone from a full-time workplace where you have one job for the rest of your life like my grandfather did, my father had two jobs, to now my children have several jobs and they are part-time jobs," Beasley said.
One of the biggest changes in the workplace is the precariousness of temporary or part-time work, which often doesn't offer the benefits that come with full-time employment, he said.
There are technological advances that mean an employee can be reached by phone or text at all hours. As a result, there is a greater need for flexibility from both employees and employers.
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Across the country, the number of precarious and temporary workers is on the rise. Approximately 2.7 million Canadians are self-employed, according to Statistics Canada, and more than 1.8 million are temporary workers on contract, casual or seasonal jobs.
Beasley said the law institute's review looks at both employment legislation as well as the social policies behind the laws.
"Those core values will stay but we have to look at it through the lens of a very different workplace and moving forward into a very different workplace," he said.
Beasley is part of a panel discussion about employment changes called The Ontario Changing Workplaces Review: Lessons for B.C. on Saturday morning at the Morris J Wosk Centre for Dialogue.
To hear more, click on the audio below.
With files from The Early Edition.