Editorial | Policy Update: Employment Standards Act

Earlier this spring, the provincial government announced a number of changes to the Employment Standards Act. It had been many years and too long since a review and update of this important Act had taken place. Members of the Tri-Cities Chamber met with Minister of Labour Harry Bains last November for a roundtable discussion about the proposed changes and other items of interest to the business community. It was very good of Minister Bains to come out and listen to the members’ concerns.

Time and time again, we have heard that it is getting harder for businesses to make ends meet with all the cost increases they are being forced to absorb. Between the new Employer Health Tax, increases in the minimum wage, and other rising costs to business, our members, especially smaller businesses, have been feeling the pinch on their bottom lines. Costlier employment regulations would add to that burden at precisely the worst time.

The two major items of concern to our members were proposed changes to the amount of sick leave and statutory holiday pay eligibility. The businesses around the table were very concerned about the effects these changes would have given with everything else that had been put on them. The compounding costs were becoming too much for them to handle.

Last December we sent a letter to Minister Bains reminding him of our members’ concerns and followed that up in February by sharing a template letter that local businesses could use to express their own apprehensions to the Minister, especially on these two issues. Many local businesses did just that, and through the network of our local members, this campaign of feedback to the Minister spread throughout the province. It was very gratifying to see the Chamber network activated and the provincial business community speak as one.

The government put forward a number of changes to the Act which needed updating. For the most part, the business community had no issues with them. We were very pleased to see that there were no changes proposed to sick leave and statutory holiday pay eligibility.

We need businesses of all sizes to be healthy and successful to have a truly vibrant community. Fair and thoughtful decisions like the one not to make those changes will help make that goal possible. Most of the employers I know will go above and beyond to keep their workforce happy because they know it is good for their business.

Thank you, Minister Bains, for recognizing the importance of balancing strong labour standards while supporting our business community. One of our Chamber’s primary mandates is working with governments of all levels to create a positive environment for our local businesses. We look forward to continuing that important work so that our community and province can grow and prosper.


Michael Hind, CEO