Take work/life balance. It has been a perennial issue in the U.S. for
years, with workers reporting record levels of burnout. And now,
increasingly, it’s becoming a concern in Canada as well.
While most Canadians—nearly 7 in 10—feel satisfied with their
ability to balance their job demands and home activities, the
numbers are dropping and more than half are currently less
content with their work/life balance than they were a decade ago,
according to Statistics Canada, a government agency.
That’s why Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has
elevated the issue with some legislative ideas and
why more companies north of the border are emphasizing employee-friendly policies, according to
Despite our similarities, when you look more
closely, diferences become apparent. When Americans take time of for Thanksgiving in November,
they often spend their extended weekend feasting
on turkey, watching football and shopping on Black
Friday. Meanwhile, Canadians celebrate the holiday
in October by eating comfort foods and enjoying long
walks and leaf-peeping before the long winter sets in.
Our work cultures aren’t quite the same either.
In general, Canadian workers have more workplace
rights and job protections under the law. To better
navigate unfamiliar terrain, HR professionals with
companies that operate in Canada (or that want to),
as well as those open to learning new workplace
ideas from “up north,” should understand these fve
key diferences in HR practices between the two
Employers in Canada, unlike
in the U.S., do not practice at-will employment. That’s one of
the biggest diferences between
the laws of the two countries.
In the U.S., an employer can
generally dismiss someone for any
reason and without warning, as long
as the decision to do so is not based on a
factor protected by law, such as age, gender or race.
In Canada, every employment relationship is gov-
erned by an agreement that grants employees rights
regarding termination. For example, “Canadian em-
ployers must always provide notice or pay … if they
wish to cancel that contract―or, in other words, fre
someone,” says Lisa Stam, founder of Spring Law,
a Toronto-based employment law frm that advises
companies and executives.
The main exception is just cause for termination,
which generally refers to fring someone for serious
misconduct, incompetence or willful disobedience.
“But that is a very high and difcult threshold to
meet in Canada,” Stam says.
Instead of resorting to termination, Canadian
managers and supervisors tend to rely on progressive discipline to help people correct problem behavior, says Stacy Glass, senior human resources
consultant at HR Options in Toronto.
“Termination of employment is—and always
should be—the last resort,” Glass says, adding that
it can often be a lengthy process. And when employees are let go, severance packages are often much
more generous than they are in the United States.
Canadian laws are similar from province to province, with the exception of Quebec, where standards
difer, notes Cissy Pau, principal consultant at Clear
HR Consulting in Vancouver, British Columbia.
Each jurisdiction adheres to its own Employment
Standards Act, which sets out the rights and responsibilities of employees and employers, along
with laws that establish human rights standards,
labor relations rules, and occupational health and
The British Columbia act, for example, requires
that terminated workers receive advance written
notice or compensation based on their length of
consecutive service. No compensation is required
if an employee is given prior notice equal to the
number of weeks of pay for which he or she is eligible. Absent notice, one week’s pay is given after
three months of employment, two weeks’ after a
year and three weeks’ following three years on the
job. After that, one week’s pay is given for each