Rights in the workplace


Rights in the workplace

Canadians have the right to be treated fairly in workplaces free from discrimination, and our country has laws and programs to protect this right.

The Canadian Human Rights Act is a broad-reaching piece of legislation that prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender, race, ethnicity and other grounds. Also, Canada's Employment Equity Act and the Federal Contractors Program require employers to take active measures to improve the employment opportunities for specific groups of people in our country.

Both the labour rights and responsibilities of employers and employees within federally regulated sectors fall under the Canada Labour Code. The rights of foreign workers in Canada are also protected under federal or provincial/territorial labour laws.

On this page:

The Canadian Human Rights Act

The Canadian Human Rights Act is a law to prohibit discrimination in employment and services within federal jurisdiction. Under the Act, Canadians are protected from discrimination when they are employed or receive services from:

  • the federal government;
  • First Nations governments; or
  • private companies that are regulated by the federal government, including banks, trucking companies, broadcasters and telecommunications companies.

This means that employers and service providers must ensure that all employees are treated equally.

Duty to accommodate

At times, people need to be treated differently to prevent or reduce discrimination. This may require an employer to make a change to an employee's work environment or duties, to make it possible for that person to do his or her job every day. This is called the duty to accommodate and it only applies to needs that are based on one of the grounds of discrimination.

The duty to accommodate has limits. Sometimes accommodation is not possible because it would cause an organization undue hardship.

Learn more about the duty to accommodate and undue hardship.

The Employment Equity Act

The Employment Equity Act is a federal law that requires federally regulated organizations and businesses to provide equal employment opportunities to four designated groups:

  • women
  • Aboriginal peoples (Indian, Inuit or Métis)
  • people with disabilities
  • members of visible minorities

The Federal Contractors Program

Like the Employment Equity Act, the Federal Contractors Program (FCP) is designed to provide equal employment opportunities to four designated groups: women, Aboriginal peoples, people with disabilities, and members of visible minorities.

The FCP applies specifically to employers that fall under the jurisdiction of a province and have been awarded a federal government contract for goods and services of $1 million or more.

The Legislated Employment Equity Program

The Legislated Employment Equity Program (LEEP) requires federally regulated organizations and businesses to report each year on how many individuals from the four designated groups are represented in their workplaces. They also have to show the steps they have taken to achieve full representation.

The goal of LEEP is to ensure that employers that fall under the jurisdiction of the federal government reflect the composition of the general labour force in Canada. These federally regulated employers include about 500 private-sector employers, 30 Crown corporations and five other federal organizations, with a combined workforce of over 760,000 employees.

The Labour Program administers and enforces LEEP, which is made mandatory under the provisions of the Employment Equity Act.

The Workplace Equity Information Management System

The Workplace Equity Information Management System (WEIMS) is an online application intended to be used by employers under the Legislated Employment Equity Program (LEEP) and federal contractors under the Federal Contractors Program (FCP).

The WEIMS application helps employers meet their obligations under the Employment Equity Act, and federal contractors under the FCP.

The Canada Labour Code

The labour rights and responsibilities of about 12,000 businesses and 820,000 of their employees are defined by the Canada Labour Code. These employees account for approximately six per cent of all Canadian workers.

Generally, the Canada Labour Code covers:

  • industrial relations – certification of unions, labour-management relations, collective bargaining and unfair labour practices;
  • workplace health and safety; and
  • employment standards, including general holidays, annual vacations, working hours, unjust dismissals, minimum wage, layoff procedures and severance pay.

See a full list of the federally regulated sectors covered by the Canada Labour Code.

The employment standards for businesses and services outside of these sectors are defined by their provincial or territorial ministry of labour.

Rights for foreign workers

Canadian laws protect every worker in Canada, including foreign workers. In Canada, foreign workers have the right to:

  • be paid for their work;
  • have a safe workplace; and
  • keep their passport or work permit.

Federal labour and employment laws cover:

  • the federal government;
  • banks;
  • companies that transport goods between provinces;
  • telecommunications companies; and
  • most businesses owned and run by the federal government.

Most other occupations are covered under provincial and territorial laws. Every province or territory has an office that deals with labour and employment laws, which can provide information about fair pay, hours of work, rest periods and working conditions.

Foreign workers have the right to call or visit these offices; an employer cannot punish a foreign worker or have him or her deported for contacting an employment standards office. To find your local office, see provincial and territorial employment standards offices.

Find more information on your rights as a foreign worker.

The Human Rights Maturity Model

Created by the Canadian Human Rights Commission, the Human Rights Maturity Model is a free tool designed to help employers create a human rights culture in the workplace.

The first of its kind, the Model helps employers assess their organizational "maturity" by looking at their own human rights processes, practices and capacity through a simple, step-by-step process.

Learn more how you can start using the Human Rights Maturity Model.