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Human Capital Law & Policy

This publication is devoted to tracking important trends in public policy and law that affect the workplace. Each new issue provides an analysis of a developing topic in human capital.

Jobs, Income and Post-Secondary Education

By global standards, Canada is a well-educated nation. As of 2011, almost two-thirds of the population aged 25 to 64 had completed some form of post-secondary education (PSE) – 27% had a university degree (bachelor’s to doctorate), while 37% possessed a credential from a college, trades, vocational or other post-secondary education or training program. By this broad measure, Canada’s rate of post-secondary attainment is the highest in the world. This should be good news: a well-established trend across the advanced economies is that higher levels of education are generally linked to improved employment prospects as well as to a greater likelihood of being in the workforce.

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New WorkSafeBC Policies on Bullying and Harassment - A Review of the Duties of Employers in BC

On July 1, 2012, Section 5.1(1)(a)(ii) of the Workers Compensation Act (the “Act”) was enacted. Part of this new provision provides that a worker’s mental disorder is compensable under the Act where that disorder is caused by a work-related stressor, including bullying or harassment. Taken together with Section 115 of the Act, Section 5.1 requires employers to address bullying and harassment as they would any other hazard in the workplace by taking all reasonable steps in the circumstances to ensure the health and safety of their workers, and those workers present at a workplace where their work is being carried out.

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BCBC Publication:
Temporary Foreign Workers in Canada: Separating Fact from Fiction

Human Capital Policy and Law Volume 3, Issue 3

The increase in the number of temporary foreign workers (TFWs) in Canada has sparked controversy and prompted a fair amount of unfavourable commentary over the past year or so. Some union leaders have suggested that foreign workers here on a temporary basis are displacing Canadians from jobs and distorting local labour markets. A few academic commentators have probed and raises questions about the legal rights and status of TFWs. In contrast, many business leaders point to the challenges companies face in finding people to fill jobs, notably in some regions, and argue that TFWs are often essential to their operations. Temporary foreign workers are also frequently sought for specific skills which may not be sufficiently available in the Canadian market.

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A Review of Trends in Union Density

An examination of the evolution of the position of trade unions in the overall labour market underscores the challenges facing the union movement in British Columbia and Canada as a whole. The term “union density” is used to track the proportion of paid workers who are covered by a collective agreement. It can be thought of as a proxy for the “market share” of unions within the employed workforce, excluding people who are classified as self-employed.

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Mental Disorder Claims Under the Workers' Compensation Act
- A Human Resources/Labour Relations Perspective

Section 5.1 of the Workers’ Compensation Act (the WCA) was enacted effective July 1, 2012. The intent of the revision was to expand the scope of mental disorder claims arising out of and in the course of employment which would be accepted as compensable under the WCA. One aspect of this expanded coverage involves a mental disorder claim by a worker that “is predominantly caused by a significant work-related stressor, including bullying or harassment, or a cumulative series of significant work-related stressors, arising out of and in the course of the worker’s employment.”

An immediate concern for employers from the implementation of Section 5.1 was an anticipated significant increase in mental disorder claims that would be filed by workers with WorkSafe BC. For those employer representatives responsible for administering compensation claims, it is expected that dealing with mental disorder claims may well evolve into a significant component of their work responsibilities.

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Canada's Economic Immigration Program to be Transformed

The Conservative government is embarking on a major overhaul of Canada’s economic immigration program. The new approach will give employers a greatly elevated role in the immigration process and hopefully reduce lengthy delays that have long plagued the immigration system. If it runs as anticipated, the revamped program should help deliver skilled immigrants to sectors and regions of the country where they are needed – and do so faster.

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Post-Secondary Education A Key Determinant of Economic Success

Human Capital Law and Policy       v2 n4
Reports from the BC Progress Board and the recent Commission on Reform of Ontario’s Public Services underscore some important facts about globalization and the acceleration of the knowledge economy: people are our most important economic asset – more important than resources, more important than financial capital.

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Class Action Litigation - A New Tool for Union Organizing?

Human Capital Law and Policy       v2 n3
On March 5, 2012, the BC Supreme Court certified a class action, brought on behalf of temporary foreign workers recruited to work in a Denny’s Restaurant franchise in Vancouver: Dominguez v. Northland Properties Corp (COB Denny’s Restaurants). The lawsuit alleged that recruiting companies engaged by the Denny’s franchisee charged agency fees contrary to the Employment Standards Act, and claimed damages, aggravated damages and punitive damages against the franchisee for breach of contract in failing to pay overtime and provide 40 hours of work per week as promised, as well as breach of fiduciary duty, a duty of good faith and fair dealing, and unjust enrichment.

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2012 Federal Budget: Some Key Issues for Employers

Human Capital Law and Policy      v2 n2
The 2012 federal budget tabled by Finance Minister Jim Flaherty on March 29 included a number of measures of interest to Canadian employers. In this issue of Human Capital Law and Policy, we note the key features of the budget from an employer perspective and comment briefly on the implications of the policy directions signaled by the government.

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So You Think You're Not The Employer...

Human Capital Law and Policy       v2 n1
Many organizations arrange their corporate affairs and relationships to minimize the extent to which they will be viewed as an “employer” of the individuals with whom they have a working relationship. The success of such attempts, however, will depend not only on the details of the arrangement, but also on the forum in which the relationship is being examined. A relationship that might be viewed as employer-employee in one setting might not be seen the same way in another.

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EI Rate Consultation - Are Employers Paying True Insurance Premiums?

Human Capital Law and Policy       v1 n3
On August 18, 2011 the Canada Employment Insurance Financing Board (CEIFB) put out a call for consultation as to how the EI rate-setting mechanism could be improved, with submissions due by November 30, 2011. The technical aspects of EI rate-setting may not be top-of-mind for most BC businesses. However, there are aspects of the Employment Insurance program, including rate-setting, that raise significant cost issues for business that should not be ignored.

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Immigration Consultation - Employers Need to Respond

Human Capital Law and Policy       v1 n2
On August 29, 2011, the Federal Government, under Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney, launched an online public consultation process seeking stakeholder input related to Canada’s immigration program. The consultation process provides an interesting starting point for a discussion of the policy considerations that underlie immigration to Canada and the nature of our current system. It also provides an impetus for employers and business leaders to take an active role in shaping not only immigration policy, but the successful implementation of the policy.

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B.C. Human Rights Tribunal Changes - Will They Be Enough?

Human Capital Law and Policy       v1 n1
On August 26, 2011, the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal reached out to its stakeholders for feedback and recommendations with respect to any issues or concerns. A broad invitation indeed. However, the invitations is in the context of a request – it is not clear from whom – that the Tribunal "undertake a broad review of its policies, procedures and practices with a view to assessing and improving its process from a variety of perspectives". While any review designed to improve the Tribunal’s processes is welcomed, the employer community might well be concerned, given what has occurred over the last year, that hoped-for amendments to the Human Rights Code may end here, with a review of Tribunal processes.

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