Bill C-4 – Amendments to the Canada Labour Code

On October 22, 2013, the Minister of Finance introduced Bill C-4, A second act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 21, 2013 and other measures, also known as the Economic Action Plan 2013 Act, No. 2. On December 12, 2013, the Bill received Royal Assent.

Among other amendments, Bill C-4 provides for important amendments to the Canada Labour Code (the “Code”). In particular, it amends the definition of “danger,” modifies the refusal to work process, removes references to health and safety officers (HSO) and confers on the Minister of Labour former HSO powers, duties and functions, in addition to providing for greater enforcement oversight.

The following important amendments to the Code came into force on April 1, 2014:

1.  The definitions of “health and safety officer” and “regional health and safety officer” in subsection 122(1) of the Code are repealed. All references to these officers are removed. The Minister is conferred with former HSO powers, duties and functions.

2.  The definition of “danger” in subsection 122(1) of the Code is replaced by the following:

“danger” means any hazard, condition or activity that could reasonably be expected to be an imminent or serious threat to the life or health of a person exposed to it before the hazard or condition can be corrected or the activity altered;

3.  Bill C-4 also amends the work refusal regime. Amongst other changes, it now provides that employers are required to investigate work refusals and prepare a written report. Upon receipt of the employer’s report, the workplace health and safety committee or the health and safety representative, is then entitled to conduct an investigation and provide a written report to the employer.

Upon the employer’s finding of “no danger” and upon the employee’s continued refusal to work, the employer may notify the Minister who will then determine whether to conduct an investigation.

The Minister is entitled, in the event that a decision to conduct an investigation is made, to rely on existing investigative reports and to combine multiple investigations.

Should the Minister decide not to investigate, the employee is no longer entitled to refuse work.

With these amendments, the Minister and the employer are afforded greater control over the administration of the health and safety provisions of the Code. Most especially, employers should take note of their new functions and duties in the work refusal regime.