In Quebec, there are many laws that apply to the workplace. The law that applies depends on the situation you are dealing with. For example, does your situation involve a labour standard or a workplace accident?
Two laws offer minimum protections
Act respecting labour standards
This law sets the minimum standards for employees that employers must follow. It applies to most employees in Quebec.
Here are some things covered by this law:
- public holidays, vacation time and leaves of absence
- minimum wage
- length of the regular work week
- termination of employment
- psychological and sexual harassment
- work performed by children
An employer can offer better working conditions but can never offer less than what the law says.
The Commission des normes, de l’équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail or CNESST (labour standards, pay equity and workplace health and safety board) is responsible for applying the Act respecting labour standards. It handles complaints from employees covered by this law.
Canada Labour Code
The Act respecting labour standards doesn’t cover all employees in Quebec. Some employees are covered by the Canada Labour Code.
The Canada Labour Code is a federal law that sets the minimum working standards for employees working for federal institutions, such as these:
- federal government
- radio and television stations
- interprovincial transportation companies
- telecommunication companies
The Act respecting labour standards doesn’t apply to unpaid trainees. As for paid trainees, some rules in the Act respecting labour standards don’t apply to them.
That being said, these trainees also have rights when it comes to taking time off and being protected from workplace harassment. You can contact the Commission des normes, de l’équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail (CNESST or labour standards, pay equity and workplace health and safety board) to find out more.
Laws protecting unionized employees
Quebec’s Labour Code
Quebec’s Labour Code is a provincial law that lets employees join unions and sets the rules for labour relations between employers and employees who are part of a union. Don’t confuse this law with the Canada Labour Code.
For unionized employees working for a business or organization, it is a collective agreement that sets the working standards. The working standards must meet the minimum working standards set out in the Act respecting labour standards.
The federal equivalent of these rules are in the Canada Labour Code.
Workplace Health and Safety
The Act respecting occupational health and safety explains the rights and responsibilities of employees and employers when it comes to health and safety at work. This purpose of this law is to prevent workplace accidents and illnesses by removing sources of danger to the health, safety and well-being of employees.
This law says that employers must do the following:
- provide a safe workplace for employees and, if necessary, provide appropriate safety equipment
- inform employees about safety risks and provide appropriate training and supervision
Employees must take steps to ensure their safety and security and that of their fellow workers. They must also act carefully.
The Act respecting industrial accidents and occupational diseases provides help for workplace injuries and illnesses, such as compensation for employees. This law also has rules about the right to return to work.
The second law provides compensation for employees who suffer workplace injuries or illness and ensures their right to return to work.
The CNESST ensures that laws around health and safety are respected. It also handles complaints of employees regarding health and safety.
Pay Equity Act
The Pay Equity Act is meant to correct salary differences cause by discrimination based on sex. It requires employers with 10 or more employees to ensure equal pay between equivalent jobs mostly done by women and those mostly done by men.
The CNESST also ensures employers respect this law.
There is also a similar federal law on pay equity.
Civil Code of Québec
This law has the rules for employment contracts, non-competition agreements and employees’ duty of loyalty and honesty towards their employers.
Quebec’s Charter of human rights and freedoms
This law says that employers cannot discriminate. For example, an employers can’t refuse to hire people because of the colour of their skin, sexual orientation, ethnic origin or disability.
This law also says employers give equal pay to employees who do equivalent work.
Act respecting the protection of personal information in the private sector and the Act respecting Access to documents held by public bodies and the Protection of personal information
These two laws cover privacy in the workplace, for example, the kind of personal information employers can gather on their employees and how they can gather and use this information.