Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Saskatchewan Party Government Cuts Overtime Pay for Retail Employees by Greg

When the Saskatchewan Employment Act ("SEA") was passed to centralize Saskatchewan's employment and labour law in a single statute, it did not include any change to the rules governing overtime previously established by the Labour Standards Act ("LSA"). In fact, like the LSA (section 5), the SEA explicitly provides that for the purposes of calculating overtime pay, a "day" means any period of 24 consecutive hours: LSA, section 5; SEA, section 2-1(b)(i).

So it might come as a surprise that Saskatchewan's government is apparently interpreting the SEA to mean something else. But that's the message being sent by the Retail Council of Canada, which says (h/t to Western Employers' Counsel) that the SEA is being interpreted to short-shrift retail workers who work more than 8 hours in a 24-hour period spread out over more than one calendar day.

In principle, a new interpretation originating from the Ministry of Labour Relations and Workplace Safety which is contrary to the express terms of the SEA does not shield employers from their obligation to pay overtime. But if the Ministry (whose Employment Standards Division is responsible for processing and assessing employee complaints) is being directed not to give effect to the right to overtime, it's not clear that many retail employees will know that their statutory rights haven't changed. And the cost of giving effect to that right in the face of a hostile Ministry may prove far more onerous than most employees can afford.

As a result, the effect of the new "interpretation" may be to change the law applied to retail workers in practice, but without the usual transparency and debate that surrounds actual changes to statutory wording.

This blog consists of general legal information only, and does not constitute the provision of legal advice to any person or organization. Please contact me at gfingas@grj.ca if you require legal advice related to labour, employment or privacy issues.