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The BC Employment Standards Act, in Summary

The Employment Standards Act and Regulations are responsible for regulating the majority of interactions occurring between employers and employees in BC workplaces. The purpose of the act is to set out the minimum standards expected of employers operating within the province and to promote the fair treatment of employees and employers.


The Act contains a number of provisions regarding hiring practices. For instance, it forbids the practice of hiring children less than 15 years of age in certain circumstances, charging employees for the privilege of being hired, and falsely representing the needs, wages, type of work, or availability of a position.

The Act also contains provisions that state that all talent and employment agencies must be properly licensed and that these agencies are forbidden from paying unlicensed third parties to help them find jobs for prospective employees. In addition, the Act has specific provisions for the hiring of domestic workers or workers that are employed at private residences. In instances where a domestic worker is required, the employer must make sure to provide the worker with a copy of an employment contract that clearly sets out the duties the domestic worker is expected to perform, the hours they are expected to work, their wages, and any charges relating to room and board that may apply.


A significant portion of the Act deals with employee wages. Among other responsibilities, the Act requires that employers pay their employees the minimum wage, provide paydays on at least a semi-monthly basis and within 8 days following the end of a pay period, pay all wages to a terminated employee within 48 hours of ending their employment, pay employees in Canadian currency, honour an employee’s written assignment for wages, provide a written wage statement on every payday, keep proper payroll records, and retain these records for at least two years following the termination of an employee.

Employers are generally forbidden from deducting, withholding, or requiring payment from any or a part of an employee’s wages, having an employee pay any of an employer’s business costs, or charging an employee for the cost of work-related clothing.


Businesses operating in BC are required to provide paid vacation time to employees who work for a business for 12 consecutive months or more. If you have an employee who has been working for you more than a year, then you are required to provide them with at least two weeks of paid vacation. For any employee who has been working for your business for five consecutive years or more, three weeks of paid vacation is legally required. It is the employer’s responsibility to ensure that an employee takes an annual vacation within 12 months following their first year of employment. In addition to providing vacation time to all employees who have been working for over a year, the Act requires that employers comply with special regulations during statutory holidays. In essence, any employee who has been working for a company for 30 days prior to a holiday should either receive a paid day off or receive 1.5 times their regular pay for working during the holiday. If an employee works more than 12 hours on a holiday, then they should receive double their pay for every hour past the twelve-hour mark.

An employer can switch the day that their employees are given off for a holiday, if both the employer and employee agree to the arrangement.


Under the Act, if an employee is required to work more than 8 hours a day or 40 hours in a week, then their employer is obligated to pay that employee overtime wages. However, this provision does not apply to individual’s working under an averaging agreement. If an employee works more than 40 hours a week or 8 hours a day and they are not working under an averaging agreement, then the employer must pay their employee 1.5 times the employee’s regular wage for the time spent working past 8 hours. If the employee works over twelve hours, then the employer is obligated to pay them double their wage for every hour past the twelve hour mark.


Much of the BC Employment Standards Act has to do with the dismissal of employees. Terminating an employee follows a full set of legal requirements that should not be taken lightly. It is important that employers understand that, under the Act, they are obligated to provide appropriate notice or pay appropriate severance to employees whose employment is being terminated. The appropriate length of notice or amount of severance owed is dependent upon how long an employee has been working for a business.

In the event that an employer is required to terminate 50 or more employees working at one location within a two month time period, then there are additional requirements including a group termination notice. Included in the group termination notice should be: the number of employees affected, the dates of terminations, and the reasons for termination. The length of notice that an employer is required to give in situations of this type depends upon the number of employees being terminated.

Contact our Employment Lawyers

BC businesses benefit from the expertise of lawyers who are fluent in the BC Employment Standards Act. At McQuarrie Hunter LLP we advise businesses of all sizes on all their employment law needs, providing the support and protection that allows them to operate smoothly during periods of transition or growth. If you own or operate a business, then please contact an employment lawyer at McQuarrie Hunter LLP to ensure that your business complies with Act with regards to its employment practices.