On October 31, 2014, amendments to the Canada Labour Code will be brought into force altering the definition of “danger” under Section 122(1) of the Code and conferring greater powers on the Minister of Labour. The changes impact employers in federally regulated industries.
The amendments were enacted for the purpose of clarifying the circumstances in which an employee may legitimately refuse to perform work that they feel is unsafe, thereby reducing the past high incidence of illegitimate work refusals. The amended definition of danger modifies the refusal to work process by permitting employees to refuse to work only when faced with an imminent or serious threat to their health or life.
In addition, the legislative amendments will transfer the powers, duties and functions from health and safety officers to the Minister of Labour or the person or class of persons to whom the Minister’s powers are delegated. As a result, the Minister will have the power to combine work refusals which impact the same employer and involve similar issues or decline to investigate work refusals which are trivial, frivolous, vexatious, or made in bad faith.
These changes have been heavily criticized by trade unions who argue that it will undermine safety in the workplace.
Other amendments to regulations under the Canada Labour Code:
- Regulations amending the Canada Occupational Safety and Health Regulations (Miscellaneous Program) – in force May 29, 2014
- Regulations amending certain regulations made under the Canada Labour Code – in force October 31, 2014
- Regulations amending the Oil and Gas Occupational Safety and Health Regulations (Miscellaneous Program) – in force May 29, 2014