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Canadian labour laws vary depending on which province or territory you work in. It’s important for employers to abide by these laws because they set the standards for our wages, break times, vacation hours, leave periods, and other employee benefits. In Quebec, all minimum wage rates and legislation were officially introduced in 1920.
What Is Minimum Wage?
Minimum wage refers to the lowest amount of income that an employer can legally pay their employee(s) within a specific province or territory. Canada’s current wage laws were originally conceived to fight poverty and improve the living quality of various economic groups, such as women, children, and non-unionized workers.
Although the minimum wage rate increases periodically in every province and territory, many financial experts argue that these low wages have only increased the unemployment rate among workers who have fewer professional skills.
The Importance of Minimum Wage Standards in Canada
As mentioned, it’s very important for employers to respect their government’s minimum wage laws, not only because many residents rely on them to live but because they set the standards for how well our workers are treated.
Just remember that every province and territory has different labour laws, so your minimum wage might be lower or higher than your fellow Canadian’s.
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Quebec Minimum Wage
As of May 1st, 2020, Quebec’s minimum wage rate is $13.10 per hour. According to the provincial government, an employer cannot legally pay any part-time, full-time, piecework, or commission-based employee less than the current rate. This rule applies even if the employee has access to benefits, such as room and board or a company car.
However, if an employee is already making over minimum wage when the provincial rate increases, their employer is not obligated to adjust their pay. On May 1st of 2021, Quebec’s minimum wage rate is predicted to increase to $13.50 per hour.
How Has Quebec’s Minimum Wage Changed Over The Years?
Since it was introduced in 1920, Quebec’s minimum wage rate has been steadily climbing. Here’s a timetable that shows the province’s most recent wage history:
|Date||Minimum Wage Rate||Rate For Tip Employees|
|May 1, 2016||$10.75||$9.20|
|May 1, 2017||$11.25||$9.45|
|May 1, 2018||$12.00||$9.80|
|May 1, 2019||$12.50||$10.05|
|May 1, 2020||$13.10||$10.45|
Who Are Tip Employees?
As their title suggests, tip employees are workers that normally receive extra money or other gratuities from customers in exchange for their work. Common examples include servers, certain types of hotel workers, valets and hair, nail, or beauty stylists.
Tips may be given in cash or added to the customer’s bill in the form of service charges. The employee that provided the service is then required to hand their tips over to their employer, who is legally obligated to add them (in full) to the worker’s regular wage.
Unfortunately, tipping is usually not obligatory and these kinds of employees aren’t always entitled to earn minimum wage or above, which is why tips are appreciated. For example, a minimum tip of 15% is the going rate for most food and beverage servers.
Exemptions to The Minimum Wage Rate in Quebec
While the minimum wage rate is an important part of Quebec’s labour laws, there are a few exceptions when it comes to various types of workers and wages, such as:
- Employees Receiving Tips – Since May 1st, 2019, the Quebec minimum wage rate for workers who regularly earn tips is $10.45 per hour.
- Commission-Based Wages – These workers receive extra pay based on a portion of their sales but are entitled to make minimum wage at the same time.
- Piecework Wage – Workers who get paid by the piece (artists, etc.) are also entitled to receive at least Quebec’s minimum wage, on top of their extra pay.
- Strawberry & Raspberry Pickers – Quebec’s minimum wage rate is $0.99 per kilogram for strawberry pickers and $3.71 per kilogram for raspberry pickers.
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Minimum Wage Deductions in Quebec
In Quebec, employers are obligated to pay their workers’ wages in maximum intervals of 16 days. For managers and contract workers, the maximum interval is one month. If the worker is a new hire, their employer has up to one month to pay their first wages.
Any overtime hours or bonuses that an employee makes during a standard workweek may be added to their normal wages during their regular payment. However, if the employee’s payment takes place on a statutory holiday, the employer must pay their wages by the day before said holiday, unless the payment is made by bank transfer.
Otherwise, employers can pay their workers’ wages:
- In cash (inside of a sealed envelope)
- By cheque (cashable within 2 business days)
- By direct transfer (through a bank or credit union)
Here are the current wage deduction rules in Quebec:
Employers must have written consent from a worker before they can deduct any of their wages, which they can only do under specific circumstances. For instance, the employer is required to make deductions for:
- Government Acts (taxes, Employment Insurance, etc.)
- Collective Agreements or Decrees
- Court Orders (child support, etc.)
- Mandatory Supplemental Pension Plans (Canada Pension Plan, etc.)
Meals & Accommodations
Employers can deduct a portion of an employee’s wages if meals or accommodations are required or ensured due to working conditions. The same rule applies if the employee’s work requires them to live or eat in the employer’s home. Currently, the maximum deduction amounts are:
- $2.27 per meal (to a maximum of $29.67 per workweek)
- $28.53 per week for one room
- $34.24 per week for an accommodation that fits 5 or more employees
- $51.33 per week for an accommodation that fits 4 or fewer employees
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Special Clothing Required For Work
Mandatory work clothing (uniforms, etc.) must be provided for free to any minimum wage workers. While workers who make over minimum wage may have their pay deducted for clothing purchase and upkeep, they must still make minimum wage or above after deductions. Before these deductions are made, the employer must have written consent.
Raw Materials, Equipment & Merchandise
Materials, merchandise and equipment, like tools, must also be provided for free by the employer if the worker is making minimum wage. Once again, written consent is required but the employer can make deductions if the worker’s wage is over the minimum rate. Additionally, all these commodities must be safe for the staff and in good shape.
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Minimum Wage and Overtime in Quebec
For most Canadian employees, the average full-time workweek consists of 40 hours. Many employees will work overtime hours at some point in their careers as well. According to The Labour Standards Act, here are Quebec’s normal overtime laws:
- Required Hours – Overtime pay is usually only granted once an employee has worked more than 40 hours within a single workweek (not daily or monthly).
- How Overtime Affects a Worker’s Pay – Generally, workers should be paid about 1.5 times their normal wage for overtime hours. If they’re unionized or obtain permission, they can also accept their overtime pay in vacation time.
- The Right to Deny Overtime – Quebec workers can refuse to work more than 4 hours past their regular shift or no more than 14 hours a day for a 10-hour shift. If there are no set hours, workers can refuse to work more than 12 hours within a 24 hour period. Workers can also refuse to work more than 50 hours per week.
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Exceptions to Quebec’s Overtime Rules
All this said, some Quebec workers, such as federal government employees may not be covered by the province’s overtime laws. The same rule often applies if the employee’s normal workweek is more than 40 hours, as is common with logging or sawmill workers in James Bay or other remote locations, where refusal is allowed after 60 hours.
In addition, employees have the right to refuse overtime work if they need to tend to their or their spouse’s or child’s health, care, or education or if they are responsible for the health of another family member. However, for this exception to be valid, the worker must not let their personal responsibilities get in the way of their normal hours.
Keep in mind that a Quebec worker may not be able to refuse overtime hours in the event of a major emergency, a danger to the life or safety of the general public or if their refusal is counter to their employer’s mandatory code of ethics.
Can my employer ask me to pay for my uniform?
Am I allowed to have paid lunch breaks?
Not Sure if Your Employer is Paying You a Fair Wage?
In that case, it’s a good idea to brush up on your province or territory’s labour laws. For instance, Quebec’s laws dictate that minimum wage workers should be earning at least $13.10 an hour, don’t have to pay for special work clothes and are allowed to refuse certain overtime hours. Don’t forget, you have rights when it comes to your job.
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