Changes to terms and conditions of employment

There are certain circumstances where the Labour Relations Code (the Code) prohibits an employer from changing an employee's terms and conditions of employment.

 The Code does not deal with your terms and conditions of employment unless you are unionized or are in the process of joining a union. If you have general questions about minimum terms and conditions of employment in a non-union workplace, you can contact the Employment Standards Branch.

 

If you are in the process of deciding to join a union, a change to your terms and conditions of employment could be an unfair labour practice (see Section 6).

If the union has applied to the Labour Relations Board to be certified to represent a group of employees who are not represented by a union, the employer can't change their terms and conditions of employment without written permission of the Board.

An employer can lay off, discipline, or dismiss an employee during this freeze period if it has proper cause to do so. However, if the discipline or dismissal is motivated in any way by anti-union feelings, then it might not matter whether the employer has proper cause. Acting on anti-union motivation will generally amount to an unfair labour practice, even if the action itself might otherwise be permissible.

During this freeze period, employer also has the right to make a change in its operations that is reasonably necessary for the proper conduct of its business (business as usual).

The employer can't change the terms and conditions of employment of the employees for 12 months after the union is certified or until a collective agreement is reached (whichever is earlier). During this time, changes can only be made if the union agrees or the Board gives its permission.

An employer can lay off, discipline, or dismiss an employee during this freeze period if it has proper cause to do so. However, if the discipline or dismissal is motivated in any way by anti-union feelings, then it might not matter whether the employer has proper cause. Acting on anti-union motivation will generally amount to an unfair labour practice, even if the action itself might otherwise be permissible.

During this freeze period, employer also has the right to make a change in its operations that is reasonably necessary for the proper conduct of its business (business as usual).

Generally speaking, employees' terms and conditions of employment are set out in a collective agreement negotiated by the employer and the union in collective bargaining. While the collective agreement is in force, the employer can't change its terms without the union's permission.

After the collective agreement expires, neither the union nor the employer can change the terms and conditions of employment, unless the other party agrees, until either a strike or lockout occurs, or a new collective agreement is in place.

Collective agreements: During a strike or lockout, the terms and conditions of employment in the collective agreement are no longer in force (but you continue to be an employee of the employer). This means that an employer may change terms and conditions of employment during a strike or lockout. Depending on the circumstances, the Board may find that the changes are an unfair labour practice or violate the duty to bargain in good faith.

If a strike or lockout ends before a new collective is reached, the old collective agreement does not come back into effect unless the employer and union have agreed otherwise.  

Essential services: Some employees may be required to work during a strike or lockout because of an essential services order. Those employees are still covered by the collective agreement terms for that work, as modified by the essential services order. Find out more about essential services.

Health and welfare benefits: The Code allows for the continuation of health and welfare benefits (other than pension benefits or contributions) that the employer would normally provide, if the union makes the payments. The union and employer can agree that this section of the Code will not apply to them. If employees have questions about the impact of a strike or lockout on their health and welfare benefits, they should contact their union. 

Leading decisions:

Leading decisions provide useful information on how the Labour Relations Board applies the Labour Relations Code (the Code) and information on what is or is not covered by the Code.


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This page was last updated: 2021-05-15

Disclaimer: The information on this website is provided for general purposes only and is not legal advice. This information is subject to the Labour Relations Code, the Labour Relations Board Rules, the Labour Relations Regulation and the published decisions of the Board

The Labour Relations Board acknowledges the traditional territories of the many diverse Indigenous Peoples in the geographic area we serve. With gratitude and respect, we acknowledge that the Board’s office is located on the traditional unceded territories of the Coast Salish peoples, including the territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and səlil̓wətaʔɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations.