What the Act says

The Act respecting labour standards contains provisions concerning differences in conditions of employment that affect the majority of Québec workers, whether they are full or part time.

Difference in treatment

A difference in treatment clause creates, for those employees hired after a specific date, conditions that differ from those of their colleagues who perform the same tasks in the same establishment.

Differences based solely on the hiring date are prohibited. Some employees may enjoy better conditions based, for example, on seniority, their professional qualifications, their experience, their performance or the quality of their assessment. Differences based on these reasons are not prohibited differences within the meaning of the Act.

Differences in conditions of employment

The Act respecting labour standards prohibits differences in treatment pertaining to the application of the following standards:

  • wages
  • length of work
  • paid statutory holidays
  • vacation
  • rest periods
  • absences due to sickness or accident
  • absences and leaves for family or parental reasons
  • notice of termination of employment or layoff and certificate of employment
  • uniforms, material and tools provided, training and travel expenses.

When an employee complains about differences in his conditions of employment, these conditions must be compared with those of an employee performing the same tasks in the same establishment, and not just with the minimum conditions stipulated in the Act.

Examples of what constitutes a difference in conditions of employment

Examples of what does not constitute a difference in conditions of employment

Permanent or temporary adjustments to conditions of employment

The Act respecting labour standards permits the making of permanent or temporary adjustments to conditions of employment in the following cases:

  1. When an employee is handicapped
    His conditions may be adapted permanently to allow him to work.
  2. In case of reclassification or demotion of an employee or when there is an amalgamation of enterprises or an internal reorganization
    Temporary differences are permitted in such cases, for the time required to take corrective action. They must be eliminated progressively within a reasonable time period.
  3. In enterprises having several pay scales for employees doing the same work in the same establishment
    The employer must establish one single pay scale. Up until the final adjustment of the new pay scale, an employee can receive a higher remuneration than that stipulated in the pay scale.

These adjustments cannot serve as points of comparison to conclude that there are differences in the conditions of employment.

Examples of circumstances requiring adjustments

The time required to complete adjustments varies from one enterprise to the next. It depends on a series of factors such as:

  • the number of employees
  • the extent of the difference to be made up for
  • the time period during which the temporary conditions have been in effect
  • the employer’s economic capacity.

The provisions of the Act respecting labour standards are public policy and the parties to a collective agreement must abide by them. The Commission des normes, de l'équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail invites enterprises and unions to make sure that their collective agreements comply with these provisions. Any agreement that does not respect these provisions is considered null.

Recourses of non-unionized and unionized employees

A non-unionized employee contacts the Commission des normes, de l'équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail. As for a unionized employee who has a recourse under his collective agreement, such as a grievance right, he can use it or file a complaint with the Commission des normes, de l'équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail.

An employee who is unionized or governed by a decree and who files a complaint with the Commission des normes, de l'équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail must demonstrate that he has not used the recourses provided under his collective agreement or the decree governing him. If the employee has used said provisions, he will have to withdraw them.

Intervention of the Commission des normes, de l'équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail

After having verified the admissibility of the employee's complaint, the Commission des normes, de l'équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail conducts an investigation. If the situation entails differences prohibited by the Act, the  Commission will ask the employer to correct the situation. If the required corrections are not made, the Commission can institute legal proceedings.

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