Adulthood 101: Employee Rights to keep in mind in the workplace

Be prepared and know your rights!

Illustration credit, Tiffany Chan

By: Grace Lo, SFU Student

Unless you find that you’re the long-lost heir to, say, a small European kingdom called Genovia, you’ll probably find yourself working a job at some point in your life. Whether you’re in co-op or working a retail job to bring in that extra moolah, no matter what kind of work you do, here are some basics to keep in mind at your B.C. workplace, especially if you’re a busy student who spends more time looking over assignments than browsing governmental sites. 

* The following information is taken from the British Columbia Employment Standards.


Your time at work

  • Standard work hours are eight hours a day and 40 hours. Think of this like a soft maximum limit for your hours at work, but it can be exceeded as long as employees receive overtime pay. This may or may not pertain to you, depending on what kind of work you do. 
  • There’s also a minimum daily hours of work. If you are scheduled to go to work, you must be scheduled for at least two hours. Even if your employer has nothing for you to do, you will still be paid for those hours.
  • Of course, you also have to fuel up in the middle of your shift. While coffee breaks are not guaranteed (bah!), if you work more than five hours in a row, then your employer must give you a 30-minute meal break. Though the meal break can normally be unpaid, if your workplace requires you to work through your meal break or otherwise be available, you should be paid for that time.


Your time away from work: because your life ≠ work

  • You should be given at least 32 hours in a row off from work every week. If for whatever reason you have to go in to work, you are entitled to overtime pay. You should also have at least 8 hours between each shift.
  • Split shifts are when you work different shifts over the course of a single workday. These shifts should occur within a 12-hour timeframe, and you will receive regular pay (unless it exceeds standard hours to qualify for overtime).
  • You can also request time off for different reasons. After a year of working, you’ll receive paid vacation days; this amount varies depending on your tenure with your workplace. If need to take a leave of absence, you will need to let your employer know when you’ll be gone and for how long, and why you need to take said leave. If you’re sick and need time off, you might be required to have a doctor’s note depending on your employer.


Getting your paycheque

  • Your employer is required to pay you twice a month. 
  • Recently minimum wage was increased from $12.65 per hour to $13.85 per hour on June 1, so double-check your pay stubs! This is part of a larger plan to increase minimum wage over the course of the next couple of years. 
    • There are, however, exceptions. For example, minimum wage for a liquor server is currently at $12.70.
  • Remember the standard work hours I mentioned above? If those standard hours are exceeded, you are entitled to overtime pay for the time that you work over the standard work hours at either 1.5 or 2 times your regular pay rate (depending on your employer), unless you have an averaging agreement. Note that even with an averaging agreement, you still cannot work more than 12 hours a day without overtime, nor more than an average of 40 per week.
  • If you are scheduled to work a statutory holiday, it is important to double check if you are qualified to be paid. 
    • If you have been on staff for 30 days and have worked 15 of the 30 days before the statutory holiday, you will receive an average day’s pay, plus time and a half for your hours worked. If you work more than 12 hours, you will be getting paid double-time.
    • If you don’t qualify, you will receive regular pay for working statutory holidays.
  • You might see a little bit extra at the end of your paycheque, whether they’re overtime and statutory holiday wages, vacation pay, etc. If you work for gratuities and tips, you  might get to keep all the tips you make or you might be pooling your tips with other employees, depending on your workplace and position.
  • You will also see deductions, such as income tax deductions made based on the TD1 tax form you filled out for your employer when you started working with them. If your workplace offers insurance that you opted in to, you may also see deductions for premiums.
  • Business expenses cannot be deducted from employee wages. For example, if you have a dine-and-dash at your restaurant, or if you’re the unfortunate individual the office printer finally gave out on, that cannot be deducted from your wages.


Leaving the workplace

  • While you’re not legally required to let your employer know you’re leaving, it’s generally good practice to give your employer at least two weeks’ notice before leaving your place of work to give them time to prepare someone to fill your position or arrange for your exit (returning work equipment, getting paperwork done etc.). If you do give notice, your employer can choose to terminate your employment sooner than your notice date.
  • If your employer terminates your employment, they must give you written notice and/or payment. The length of notice and amount of payment given depends on how long you’ve been working with them and is outlined in your job contract.
  • Your employer does not need to give you any notice or compensation if they fire you for “just cause.” This means that the employer has a valid reason to end your employment, such as not meeting standards of employment or committing a serious offence at work.
  • After you leave the workplace, make sure to pick up your last paycheque plus whatever miscellaneous wages you might have accrued over time (e.g. vacation pay, overtime, compensation)! If you quit, you should have your final payment within six days of your last day at work. If your employer terminates your work, they should have your final payment within 48 hours of your last day at work.


If you have more specific concerns or other questions about working, below are some resources that can help guide your inquiries.

  • Employment Standards guide: This is like the tl;dr of the Employment Standards Act that will take you through most things that you will encounter in your workplace
  • SFU Co-op: If you’re doing co-op or considering doing co-op, this is probably your starting point. They also have more specific information on things such as what to expect at your workplace.
  • WorkBC: Think of this like the Career Centre of Real LifeTM. WorkBC offers resources getting a job, training, and can be a gateway to more specific resources.
  • Employment Standards Act: If nothing above answers your question, the best place to go would be the source of the law. It’s dry, it’s hard to read, but it has everything laid out in specific legal terms.