By Dayna Steinfeld
In Manitoba, The Employment Standards Code (“ESC”) establishes basic and minimum rights and standards for provincial employees. Where the ESC applies to a worker’s job, these rights and standards are mandatory. This kind of legislation is not unique to Manitoba. Employment standards statutes are found in every province and in the federal jurisdiction, and there are many general similarities between the Manitoba ESC and legislation in other provinces. However, each piece of legislation is distinct and there are differences in the specific rights and entitlements established through the legislation in each province. It is important for workers in Manitoba to know their rights under the ESC to help avoid being taken advantage of in their jobs. Below are some key areas where questions commonly arise for employees in Manitoba.
Can my employer make deductions from my wages?
Many workers have been faced with the situation of having the cost of a uniform or tools deducted from their pay. But is this permitted under the ESC?
In Manitoba, employers are generally prohibited from making deductions from employee wages, unless the deductions are required by federal or provincial law (such as EI or CPP contributions) or permitted by a court order. Employers are specifically prohibited from making deductions for uniforms and for any amount to cover any cost arising from faulty work of the employee or damage caused by the employee, or to cover a cash shortage such as in a “dine and dash” situation.
There are certain circumstances where other deductions from pay are permitted:
- With the employee’s consent, the employer may deduct an amount for something that is provided as a direct benefit to the employee which the employee was not required to obtain from the employer.
- An amount for business supplies or tools may be deducted, but only if several requirements are met: the employee was not required to purchase the supplies or tools from the employer; the employee is able to keep the supplies or tools when they are no longer working for the employer; and the employer is not required by law to provide the supplies or tools to the employee.
- With the employee’s consent, the amount of a payroll error that benefited the employee or a cash advance paid to an employee may be deducted from wages (but the deduction cannot include any amount for interest, service charge, or fee).
- With the employee’s written authorization, the minimum amount payable by the employer for an offence committed by the employee that is being prosecuted against the employer for a photo radar or red light camera ticket may be deducted from wages.
When am I entitled to a leave of absence?
The ESC provides for a variety of leaves of absences that are available to employees should different circumstances arise in their lives. These are unpaid leaves of absence. The purpose of including the leaves in the ESC is to protect the rights of workers to take necessary time away from work while ensuring they will have a job to return to after their absence from the workplace.
The leaves of absence in the ESC include bereavement, compassionate care, family responsibility (including the health of the employee), interpersonal violence, critical illness, serious injury or illness, maternity and parental leaves. The lengths of time available as protected leaves vary depending on the type of leave being taken.
In Manitoba, there is also a new public health emergency leave. This is a temporary measure in the ESC that provides employees with job-protected leave related to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is available where an employee is unable to work due to circumstances related to the pandemic, such as a public health requirement to quarantine or providing care to a family member due to school or daycare closures, and is available for the length of time the circumstance persists.
Significantly, the ESC prohibits employers from requiring a doctor’s note to support an employee’s eligibility for public health emergency leave or other protected leaves available under the ESC. This means that employees taking family responsibility leave for their own health cannot be mandated by their employer to provide a doctor’s note.
Am I entitled to severance pay?
The term “severance” is often used in the context of an employee losing their job. You may have also heard about employers being obligated to pay “severance” under employment standards legislation. However, this term has no meaning under the ESC. Unlike other employment standards legislation, such as in Ontario, there is no obligation on Manitoba employers to provide severance pay on termination of employment. The requirement in the ESC is to provide notice of termination, or pay in lieu of notice, in accordance with the minimum amount of notice set out in the ESC.
Employers or lawyers in Manitoba may still refer to offering or negotiating a “severance” package. That typically refers to a package or pay-out offered by an employer at the time of termination to satisfy its obligation, under the common law, to provide reasonable notice of termination. (For more information on the meaning of common law reasonable notice, see: “What is reasonable notice?”). Common law reasonable notice is an amount beyond the minimum required under the ESC that is intended to help bridge an employee from their old job to a new position. The question of whether you may be entitled to common law reasonable notice depends on the terms of your employment contract. However, the rights provided on termination under the ESC do not include a separate right to severance pay.
The ESC establishes important rights for workers. It is Manitoba-specific legislation that contains unique standards, limits, and entitlements. Employees should be aware of the specifics of the rights and responsibilities in the ESC. A Manitoba employment lawyer can help address questions or concerns workers may have about whether the requirements of the ESC are being met by their employer.
[This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice, which cannot be given without consideration of your individual circumstances.]