Employment Law

Changes to your job in B.C.: What you should know

job changes b.c., changes to work b.c.

Can my employer make changes to my job?

Generally speaking, an employer or business operating in B.C. can’t make considerable and unwanted changes to an employee’s job or the terms of their employment. The types of changes that are prohibited are:

  • A cut in pay, salary, commission or bonus
  • Drastically reducing an employee’s hours of work
  • Demoting an employee, or changing their job title or duties
  • Creating a toxic or unsafe work environment
  • Changing work locations
  • Putting someone on a temporary layoff

You do not have to accept a change introduced by your employer. If you object to the modification, make the company aware of it in writing, preferably through an email so that you have a record of your refusal.

If you are a non-unionized employee in B.C. and your employer has made drastic changes to your job, remember to act fast! If you wait too long to take action, you may be seen as having accepted the changes. It then becomes more difficult to take action, including pursuing compensation, and allows your employer to make other alterations to your employment in the future. Speak to a lawyer at Samfiru Tumarkin LLP today.

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What is a constructive dismissal?

A constructive dismissal in B.C. occurs when an employee has made a decision to resign from their job because a fundamental change to the terms of their employment has occurred, or when an employer creates, or allows for the creation of, a hostile or toxic work environment.

When the terms of your employment are significantly changed, the law allows you to resign from your job and pursue full severance pay through a wrongful dismissal claim. How much severance pay you should get in B.C. depends on various factors, including age, length of service, position, employability, and more. Millions of Canadians have used the Severance Pay Calculator to find out what they may be owed in this situation.

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Can my employer make changes to my shift or hours of work?

In B.C., your employer can’t alter your shifts, work schedule or hours of work in a way that negatively impacts you. If your employer asks you to work longer hours than originally indicated, scales back your hours of work, or changes your shifts from early mornings to late evenings, you may have a case for a constructive dismissal.

For most employees, shift changes are not ideal, especially when it comes to personal obligations outside of work, such as childcare. Unless your employment contract states otherwise, an employer cannot change your hours of work significantly.

  • Example: You have always worked Monday to Friday. The company has informed you that they want you to start working Wednesday to Sunday. Because this change to your schedule will have a massive impact on your life and is not addressed in your employment contract, you do not have to accept it.

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Can my employer cut my pay?

Your employer can’t apply a major cut to your pay or income without your agreement. If your company significantly reduces your wages, commission or bonus without your consent, it’s likely that you have been constructively dismissed.

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Can my employer force me to relocate?

The short answer is no. The location of your job is a fundamental term in your employment. Your employer can’t make you:

  • Move to another city or province for work-related reasons.
  • Work out of another office or workplace if it’s too far from where you live, thereby increasing commute time and costs.

Non-unionized employees in B.C. don’t have to accept this kind of change to their job. When these terms of your employment are significantly changed, the law allows you to resign from your job with help from our employment lawyers and seek full severance pay through a constructive dismissal claim.

Can Suncor Energy force me to move from Toronto to Calgary?
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Can my employer change my job description?

Often employment contracts specify that the duties of an employee’s role can be changed “in the employer’s sole discretion.” While agreeing to this term in an employment contract gives the employer a basis to institute some modifications to your job description, this doesn’t mean significant changes are permissible in most cases.

LEARN MORE: Can my employer change my job description in British Columbia?

Modifications that do not form a material term of the employment relationship are likely justifiable, but if a significant and material change (i.e. taking away management responsibilities) is made unilaterally, it is possible that this amounts to the employer showing it does not intend to be bound by the terms of your employment agreement, and may amount to a constructive dismissal. This would mean that your employment contract has been terminated by the employer through its actions, and you are entitled to severance.

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Can my employer make changes in my employment agreement without telling me?

No, an employer in B.C. can’t modify an employee’s contract without telling them.

If you have a written employment agreement, changes to these terms should be in writing and agreed to between both parties. If your employer tries to modify the terms of a written employment agreement without your awareness or acknowledgement, the changes will not be binding on you.

Further, if an employer wishes to change the terms of your employment during the course of your employment, generally you have to receive something in return for agreeing to the change, which in legal terms is referred to as “consideration” (i.e. a small bonus or increase in compensation).

Beware that employment agreements may allow employers to unilaterally change the terms of employment, eliminating arguments in favour of constructive dismissal. These terms can often be easily negotiated. For example, a contract with a fair severance clause can be worth tens of thousands of dollars more to an employee whose employment was terminated.

Overtime pay in B.C.
Layoffs in Canada
• Severance pay in B.C.

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Can my employer change my employment from full-time to part-time?

No. If you began working for a company full-time in B.C., and they decide to reduce your hours to part-time, this would be a significant change to the terms of your employment.

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Can my employer add duties to my job without providing compensation?

If the added duties are not significant, it may be permissible for an employer to do so. However, adding substantial duties to your job will likely constitute a material change, and may amount to a constructive dismissal if the change is not agreed to and supported by a corresponding benefit to you (i.e. consideration = a small bonus or increase in compensation).

LEARN MORE: Can my employer increase my workload in British Columbia?

The determination of whether the additional duties are significant or not is obviously subjective. If your employer has done this, it would be in your best interests to speak to an employment lawyer and obtain an assessment of whether you have been constructively dismissed.

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Can my employer cut my hours and give them to someone else?

If you work in B.C., and your employer significantly cuts your hours and you notice they have given them to another employee, you may have a case for a constructive dismissal.

Similarly if you are demoted because your employer wants to hand your position to a new employee, or they feel you are not suited for the role, this is not permitted under any circumstances.

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What should you do if your employer has made a big change to your job?

If your employer has made a significant change to your employment in B.C., you should do the following:

  • Raise concerns immediately: Employees who do not speak up after a considerable change has been imposed on them, unfortunately, give their employer permission to enact further changes in the future. Employees who wish a change to be temporary should communicate their concerns to their employer and make sure they document in writing, that the change is to be temporary.
  • Do not resign: Employees should not resign from their positions before seeking legal advice from an employment lawyer. Employees can work with an employment lawyer to work toward a plan to leave to their employment.
  • Talk to an employment lawyer: If your employer has made a significant or negative change to your job, consult our team today. Our experienced employment lawyers in B.C. (and in Alberta and Ontario) can give you sound advice – and the compensation you deserve.

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