Part-time: what does the law say?

Part time work is a relatively recent phenomenon. It is the consequence of a work world that is more demanding of workers in terms of mobility and flexibility. Today, both supporters and detractors of part time work agree that it is now an integral part of the Canadian working landscape.

Several federal and provincial labour regulations determine the parameters. They can be somewhat different between provinces and industries, but the Labour Code nonetheless establishes a common base for all Canadian workers, including those employed part time.

Work and rest periods 

First and foremost, federal regulations provide standards limiting the maximum daily and weekly hours of work. Some provinces have then developed their own criteria on this basis. Ontario, for example, limits the work day to eight hours and the week to forty eight hours. The regulation establishes standards for remuneration for overtime hours and their allocation.

Most provincial regulations impose a minimal daily rest period ranging from eight to eleven hours. The Labour Code also regulates rest periods. Nationally, regardless of the job, one full rest day per week is required. By common agreement, a majority of employers designate Sunday, but employers whose activities operate 24 hours a day are not bound. British Columbia and Quebec guarantee thirty three consecutive rest hours per week to their workers, while the Yukon provides for two days. Saskatchewan also sets aside two rest days but only for those who work twenty hours or more in an establishment with at least ten employees.

Flexibility                                

Employers have room to manoeuvre with part time work, which gives them greater flexibility in their operations. In practice, employers come to agreements with their staff. However, employers are not legally required to take personal requests into account when establishing the work schedule, regardless of the reason. For example, if a student wants to reduce their work hours to focus studies, nothing obliges his boss to grant it. However, human rights take over where the Labour Code leaves off: the law requires employers to allow workers to attend to certain minimal family obligations such as caring for people.

Wage regulations

The Labour Code does not guarantee the same wage treatment between part time workers and full time workers. Nothing in federal regulations requires employers to pay part time employees as much as their full time colleagues. Only two provinces provide for some pay equity. In Quebec, employers are required to pay the same wage to all employees who perform the same task, unless this salary is twice the minimum wage. Saskatchewan, meanwhile, rather facilitates access to job related benefits and allowances, such as medical or dental care. Depending on the province, their allocation is governed by regulations that sometimes are severe. However, as soon as a part time employee works more than thirty hours per week he is guaranteed to receive the same benefits as a full time worker.

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