What rights do I have under the Canada Labour Code?

The Canada Labour Code gives you the following rights:

Right to know

You have the right to be informed of known or foreseeable hazards in the workplace and to be provided with the information, instructions, training, and supervision necessary to protect your health and safety.

The Code requires the use of appropriate methods of communication for all employees including those with special needs. Such methods are Braille, large print, audiotapes, sign language, and oral communication.

In addition, you are given the right to have access to government or employer reports related to the health and safety of employees through your policy health and safety committeeworkplace health and safety committee or health and safety representative.

Right to participate

As health and safety representatives or workplace health and safety committee members or policy health and safety committee members, employees have the right to participate in identifying and correcting work-related health and safety concerns.

The purpose of the above committees are to handle issues that are organization-wide in nature. Part II of the Canada Labour Code also provides for employee participation through the use of an Internal complaint resolution process.

Right to refuse

You have the right to refuse to work if you have reasonable cause to believe that:

  • your workplace presents a danger to you;
  • the use or operation of a machine or apparatus presents a danger to you or to another employee; and
  • the performance of an activity constitutes a danger to you or to another employee.

In order for you to be protected by the Canada Labour Code when exercising your right to refuse to do dangerous work, you must follow the proper procedure. For information on this procedure and other aspects of the right to refuse dangerous work, see Right to refuse dangerous work.

What do I do if I have a Health & Safety problem?

It is important for you to know that you have an obligation under the Canada Labour Code, Part II, paragraphs 126(1), to report any work place violence or hazard that you are aware of, even though you may not be involved. (The way to file a complaint is through the Internal Complaint Resolution Process as per section 127.1(1) of the Canada Labour Code which you can see below). Your initial steps should be:

1. Tell your supervisor

Your supervisor is the first link in a chain that goes to the top, so they need to be told about the hazards and dangers you discover in the workplace.

An important note: no job is worth dying over. In all jurisdictions, workers have the legal right to refuse to perform a task that they feel will cause harm to themselves or others. If you feel the task is too dangerous, tell your supervisor that “you are refusing to do the task because you feel it is too dangerous.” This will set into motion a series of steps that will lead to the hazard being removed, or an investigation with your local health and safety representative or a committee member.

For more information on the right to refuse unsafe work, see “Right to Refuse” above.

2. Make sure your co-workers, your union health and safety committee, and your local executive know about the hazard.

It is the law that your employer must tell all employees about the hazards of the workplace, however not all do. To help protect each other, tell co-workers, especially those who will be potentially exposed to the hazard. You also have an obligation under the Canada Labour Code to report any hazard.

3. Make sure your Joint Health and Safety committee knows about the problem.

All hazards should be reported to members of your Joint Health and Safety committee or health and safety representative, but this is a particularly important step if your supervisor does not take action to fix the hazard. A well-functioning committee will address problems brought to its agenda, as well as conduct regular health and safety inspections to make sure that working conditions are safe.

4. Contact a PSAC Health & Safety representative.

PSAC has Regional Health and Safety representatives that are experts in health and safety. While you should start by contacting your USJE local Executive, you can also contact the regional health & safety representative if you have any health and safety related questions. You should also ensure that everyone at the local level has been informed.

What is the Internal Complaint Resolution Process?

It is important that each employee knows that they have an obligation under the Canada Labour Code to report any work place violence or hazard that they are aware of, even though they may not be involved. There is a way to report a violation of the Canada Labour Code and its Regulations by a complaint as per section 127.1(1) of the Canada Labour Code. Please consult the below flowchart of the said complaint process.