The National Assembly Unanimously Passes A Bill Amending Quebec's Act Respecting Labour Standards (ALS)

Author:Mr Philippe Bélisle and Andréane Giguère
Profession:Norton Rose Fulbright Canada LLP
 
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In March, we reported that Quebec's labour minister, Dominique Vien, had just tabled Bill 176: An Act to amend the Act respecting labour standards and other legislative provisions mainly to facilitate family-work balance.

In response to pressure from the government, which was seeking to pass its bill before the end of the current parliamentary session (and before the fall election), debates took place over the past few days, and the bill was passed unanimously on June 12, 2018 and assented to a few hours later.

The passage of the Bill put an end to orphan clauses for pension plans and other employee benefits. In addition, as mentioned in a recent publication, new provisions will have a significant impact on personnel placement agencies. Finally, provisions regarding harassment of psychological or sexual nature and family-work balance were revisited in order to better address current social issues.

The following are the main issues requiring the attention of employers:

Orphan clauses

First, orphan clauses will be prohibited for pension plans and other employee benefits. This decision surprised many commentators, especially since the Fortin Report, published in November 2017, recommended that the government wait for other provinces to enact similar legislation before taking such an approach.

For the moment, Quebec is the only province to prohibit these types of clauses, which could cause headaches for companies operating in more than one jurisdiction. However, orphan clauses existing before the coming into force of new provisions will not be affected and will continue to be valid. The new provisions relating to orphan clauses came into force on June 12, 2018.

Placement agencies

In addition to establishing the principle whereby a placement agency may not remunerate an employee at a lower rate of pay than the rate paid to employees of the client company who perform the same duties in the same establishment, the new provisions require agencies to hold a licence and provide for the implementation of regulations concerning such agencies.

Companies that retain the services of an agency that does not hold a licence will also be liable to a penalty. Finally, personnel placement agencies and the client companies that retain their services will now be solidarily liable to an employee for the pecuniary obligations established by the ALS.

These amendments will come into force when the government has passed the relevant regulations.

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