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Employment Law


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Our Employment Law services are available to businesses of all sizes in British Columbia, from sole proprietorships to large corporations with hundreds of employees and multiple branch offices.

Our experienced lawyers represent employers at all levels of court and before administrative tribunals, including the Employment Standards Tribunal and the Human Rights Tribunal.

While we have extensive litigation experience, we also know that litigation is not always the most effective option when resolving employment disputes.  We help our clients to explore and evaluate the suitability of all appropriate avenues for conflict resolution, including settlement, arbitration and mediation.


  • Will my employment agreement stand up in court?
  • I have an employee who has been with the company for over 10 years and is not fulfilling their job duties.  What are my options?
  • An employee was injured outside of work and only wants to work part time now.  Do I have to accept this?
  • How do I defend a Human Rights complaint?
  • Can I receive costs for defending a human rights complaint?
  • How do I hire or fire a disabled employee?
  • What questions am I not allowed to ask a potential employee?
  • My company hires foreign workers.  What employment and labour laws in B.C. should I be aware of?
  • How do I integrate my Human Resources policy with the law?
  • What rights are my employees entitled to under the Employment Standards Act?
  • How do I protect my business if an employee quits?
  • My employee is suing me for wrongful dismissal.  What are my defences?
  • What is the proper amount of severance or notice my employee is entitled to based on the B.C. labour code and the Employment Standards Act?
  • How do I hire an independent contractor, commissioned salesperson, server or farm worker?

Hiring and Firing Without Violating B.C. Employment Law

Hiring employees is one of the most significant investments undertaken by a business, involving compliance with B.C. labour laws and employment laws.  Hiring the wrong person can be both financially and emotionally expensive.  We assist in the process by providing guidance with interview and resume reviews, as well as employment offers for potential candidates. Our employment lawyers in B.C. are often asked to prepare or review:

  • Staff policy manuals
  • Employment contracts
  • Confidentiality and non-competition agreements

Terminating employees is one of the most unpleasant tasks facing employers.  It also happens to be one of the leading causes for litigation and complaints to administrative tribunals by employees.

We can ease the burden by advising employers of their options and their legal obligations under B.C. work laws, to ensure that the process is handled in a respectful and professional manner.  We are often called upon to advise on and prepare severance packages, which may include both lump sum payments and/or salary continuances.

The Notice Period In British Columbia


Unless terminated for just cause, employers in British Columbia are required by both the Employment Standards Act and the common law of contracts to give an employee prior notice of the termination of their employment, or to pay the employee salary in lieu of notice.


The amount of notice an employee is entitled to, pursuant to the Employment Standards Act, depends on the length of service of the employment:

  • Less than 3 months → No notice required;
  • More than 3 months → 1 week of notice;
  • More than 12 months → 2 weeks of notice;
  • More than 36 consecutive months → 2 weeks notice + 1 week for each additional year of service (8 weeks max).

The amount of notice an employee is entitled to will depend on the employee’s length of service, age, special skills, availability of other work, and other relevant factors.  What constitutes reasonable notice varies from employee to employee and can be as long as 24 months.

Understanding these and other rights is important to avoiding liability in your employment practices.

Business Protection, Non-Competition, Confidentiality, Non-Solicitation Agreements and Covenants

Many employers worry that their employees will one day quit and go into business in competition with their former employer.  Employers want to know the best way to protect the goodwill of their business and what they can do when their star employee announces they’ve been hired by the competition.  The law in this area is constantly changing and our employment law team can provide up-to-the-minute advice on how, when and what restrictions can be placed on employees, both during and after the term of their employment.

The B.C. Employment Standards Act

The Employment Standards Act and Regulations are responsible for regulating the majority of interactions occurring between both employers and employees in B.C. workplaces. The purpose of this B.C. employment law is to set out the minimum standards expected of employers operating within the province and also promotes fair treatment of employees and employers.

Businesses in British Columbia can benefit from the experience of lawyers who are fluent in the B.C. Employment Standards Act.  At McQuarrie, we advise businesses of all sizes on all of 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, contact an employment lawyer at McQuarrie to ensure that your business complies with the B.C. Employment Act.


The B.C. Employment Standards 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 establishes employment laws 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.

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 B.C. Employment Standards 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 being terminated by their employer,
  • 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 B.C. 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 for 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 B.C. Employment Standards 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.


B.C. employment law states, that if an employee who is not a manager 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 individuals 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 B.C. 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.

B.C. Human Rights Code

The purpose of the Human Rights Code is to allow all British Columbians full and free participation in the economic, social, political, and cultural life of the province, promote a climate of equality, prevent discrimination, eliminate patterns of inequality, and provide a means of redress for individuals who have been discriminated against.


Discrimination in the Workplace

Despite several generations of incremental improvement, discrimination in the workplace still occurs.  If you believe that you may have been discriminated against by a prospective, current, or former employer, then you should contact a lawyer to discuss your options.

Most issues of employee discrimination are outlined and regulated by the B.C. Human Rights Code, which prevents employers from discriminating against a person in their employment on the grounds of race, marital status, colour, place of origin, ancestry, religion, political beliefs, family status, physical disability, mental disability, sex, age, sexual orientation, or criminal conviction.  In addition, an employer may not discriminate against an employee who has made a complaint to a regulatory body.

Other practices that are forbidden under the Code include discrimination in employment advertisements, employee wages, or in regard to an employee’s association with unions or other groups.

When advertising for new employees, an employer is specifically forbidden from expressing that preferential treatment will be given to employees based on their political beliefs, religion, marital status, family status, physical or mental disability, sex, sexual orientation, age, race, color, ancestry, or place of origin unless the preference is based on an occupational requirement.

Regarding wages, an employer is barred from employing an employee of one sex at a wage that is less than that of an employee of the other sex, if the position of the two employees in the company and the work that they are asked to undertake is similar.  In short, if an employee is paid less based on nothing other than their sex, then they are entitled to recover the difference in the amount paid between them and a comparable employee of the opposite sex.  It is important to note, that an employer is not allowed to lower the pay of another employee in order to comply with this provision of the code.

With regards to employment generally, employers are barred by the Code from discriminating against employees based on their race, colour, ancestry, place of origin, political beliefs, religion, marital status, family status, physical or mental disability, sex, sexual orientation, age, or legal history.  Once again, this restriction on discrimination does not apply to instances where there is a provable occupational requirement.

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Complaints & Compensation

If an individual feels that they have been discriminated against in violation of the B.C. Human Rights Code they may choose to file a complaint with the Human Rights Tribunal. Complaints can be filed on behalf of other people, or a class of persons.

If an individual is discriminated against, they must file their complaint within 6 months of the time at which the discrimination took place.  If the discrimination took place over a period of many years, then the complaint must be filed within 6 months of the last act of discrimination.  If the complaint is filed past this period the panel may accept it if they determine that accepting the complaint will serve the public interest or that the delay in filing does not prejudicially affect the case of the claimant or defendant.

Members of the panel can dismiss all or part of a complaint without a hearing if the member determines that the complaint does not fall within the jurisdiction of the tribunal, the acts or omissions alleged in the complaint do not fall within the jurisdiction of the tribunal, it would be unreasonable to assume the complaint will succeed, or proceeding with the complaint would not benefit those discriminated against or otherwise further the purposes of the Code.  Additionally, a panel member can dismiss a complaint if they find that the complaint was filed in bad faith or has been dealt with in another proceeding.

If the panel decides not to dismiss the complaint and the complainant succeeds at the hearing of the complaint, the panel may order that the business or person that violated those employment laws ceases the violation and refrains from further instances of the specific violation.  The main forms of relief granted by the Human Rights Tribunal are the following:

  • An order that the person who contravened the Code take steps to address the effects of their discriminatory practice;
  • An order compelling the employer to adopt and implement an employment equity program or similar program;
  • Making available to the complainant the right, opportunity, or privilege that was previously denied to them;
  • Compensate the complainant for wages and salary lost as well as expenses incurred;
  • Pay the complainant an amount that the panel considers appropriate to compensate them for injury to their dignity, feelings, or self respect; or
  • Award costs.

Our lawyers are here for all of your employment law needs.  If you’re ready to schedule a consultation with McQuarrie’s employment lawyers simply click on the link below.

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