In British Columbia, Canada, the Employment Standards Act defines the minimum standards of employment that apply to most workplaces in the province. Every province in Canada will have similar acts that outline expectations of employers and employees, though these standards may vary from one place to another. While the Employment Standards Act provides guidelines for most industries, there are special rules to industries such as high technology, agriculture, taxis, log harvesting, silviculture, and the oil and gas sectors. With respect to refusing to work overtime, the Employment Standards Act outlines an employee’s rights. So, can you get fired for refusing to work overtime?
First and foremost, it is important to understand that under the Employment Standards Act, an employer may terminate an employee for any reason provided sufficient notice or compensation is provided. So then, what is sufficient notice? This depends on your length of service.
After 3 consecutive months employed, your employer is required to provide one week’s notice or compensation equal to one week of pay. After 12 consecutive months of employment, you would be entitled to two weeks’ notice or compensation of two weeks’ pay. At three consecutive years of employment, you would be entitled to 3 weeks’ notice or 3 weeks’ pay. After 3 years of employment, notice or compensation increases by one week for each added year of employment to a maximum of 8 weeks.
As you can see, regardless of whether you refuse to work overtime, your employer can terminate you for any reason as long as they provide adequate notice or compensation. In fact, an employer may require employees to work overtime, but they must pay appropriate overtime wages and hours worked cannot be a health and safety hazard. While the BC Employment Standards Act states that an employer cannot expect staff to work excessive hours, it does not explicitly define excessive hours. That being said, the Act does define that an employer provides staff with adequate time away from work and stipulates at least 8 hours free from work between shifts worked.
The Act also defines overtime wages. Unless you are subject to an averaging agreement, employees are entitled to 1.5 times their usual pay for time worked over 8 hours, and double their usual pay for time over 1w hours. Additionally, employees are entitled to 1.5 times their usual pay for time worked over 40 hours per week.
Still, while there are no explicit rules against requiring employees to work overtime and an employer can terminate an employee for any reason, if you feel you are wrongfully dismissed from employment because of your refusal to work under unsafe conditions, you should contact an experienced employment lawyer to ensure your rights have not been contravened.