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Federal election 2015 – employee time off to vote

Borden Ladner Gervais LLP

With the upcoming elections, we thought it would be timely to remind you of your obligations and employers with respect to employees taking time off to vote.

The Canada Elections Act requires employers throughout Canada to give their employees time off to vote in the upcoming October 19, 2015 federal election.

Everyone eligible to vote must have three consecutive hours to cast their vote on Election Day. If an employee ‘ s hours of work do not allow for three consecutive hours to vote during the electoral polling hours, the employer must give the employee time off to vote. The employee must be paid his or her regular wage during the time off for voting. Employers cannot require the employee to use a vacation day and are also prohibited from penalizing an employee in any way from taking time off to vote.

Two examples help illustrate when an employer is required to give an employee time off to vote.

1. Time off Required

An employee resides in a riding that has voting hours from 9:30 am to 9:30 pm. The employee’s shift is 11 am to 7 pm.

This employee does not have three consecutive hours off work to vote when the polls are open because the employee is only off work during polling hours for 1.5 hours in the morning and 2.5 hours in the afternoon.

The employer, however, has the discretion to decide when the time off will be given and can require the employee to take 30 minutes off work to vote during the last 30 minutes of the employee’s shift (rather than 1.5 hours off in the morning) since that will be least disruptive to the employer.

2. Time off not Required

A different employee with the same employer and in the same riding has a shift from 9 am to 5 pm.

This employee has more than three consecutive hours after work to vote during polling hours. Accordingly, this employee does not have to be provided with time off to vote during the work day.

Transportation Industry Exemption

An exemption applies if the employer is in the transportation industry. For the exemption to apply all four of the below criteria must be met:

  • The employer is a company that transports goods or passengers by land, air or water;
  • The employee is employed outside his or her polling division;
  • The employee is employed in the operation of a means of transportation; and
  • The time off cannot be allowed without interfering with the transportation service.

Penalties

Employers who fail to give employees time off to vote or fail to pay employees as required by theElections Act are in breach of the Act. Employers could face a fine of up to $2,000, three months imprisonment, or both for each violation of the Act.

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The study, Pharmacare: what are the costs for patients and taxpayers?

TORONTO, Sept. 28, 2015 /CNW/ – New research suggests that a national single-payer Pharmacare program is unnecessary and will be costly for Canadian patients and taxpayers. The study was published at Canadian Health Policy the online journal of Canadian Health Policy Institute (CHPI).

Since 2013, several academics, activist groups and unions have been vigorously advocating for the establishment of Pharmacare. Several papers have been published that advocate for Pharmacare. Most recently, the Canadian Medical Association Journal published a study (Morgan et al 2015) that estimated the cost of establishing Pharmacare.

Pharmacare is proposed as a national universal publicly-funded single-payer system that would entirely replace Canada’s current pluralistic system of federal-provincial-territorial publicly-funded drug plans, and employment-based private drug plans. Pharmacare advocates infer that this will be either a federal program or a federal-provincial-territorial intergovernmental cooperative program in order to achieve national scale and standards.

“Pharmacare advocates propose to establish a government-run monopoly over drug insurance,” said Dr. Brett J Skinner lead author of the report. “Our study examined what that will mean for patients and taxpayers.”

According to co-author Kimberley Tran, “We asked several important questions about Pharmacare that have not been adequately addressed by its advocates like, how many Canadians are insured, uninsured and under-insured for their prescription drugs? How will access to prescription drugs be affected and what are the health implications for patients? Under realistic assumptions, how much cost will be shifted from private plans onto taxpayers? What are the indirect economic costs from a government take-over of private insurance? How do other countries achieve universal drug insurance coverage?”

The CHPI study examined the evidence and concluded that there are at least four reasons why Canadians should be skeptical about Pharmacare.

Fist, according to the study, Canada’s actual experience with public drug plans strongly suggests that Pharmacare will reduce access to the most innovative medicines for the 24 million Canadians who currently have employment based private drug plans, without improving benefits for the 11 million Canadians who are currently eligible for public drug plans.

“Forcing 24 million Canadians with private drug plans to accept the inferior coverage provided by public drug plans could have profound health and economic implications,” said Dr. Skinner.

Second, assuming realistic prices and no changes to the drug benefits currently enjoyed by Canadians, the study calculated that Pharmacare will shift $13.2 billion in direct prescription drugs related costs onto taxpayers. If implemented entirely as a centralized federal program, Pharmacare would shift $25.5 billion off the provinces and the private sector onto the federal budget. In both cases, additional indirect economic costs resulting from the government take-over of the private drug insurance industry could total at least$4.1 billion in the first year.

Third, the study argues that a government monopoly is not needed to achieve universal drug insurance coverage: under the current pluralistic public-private system, Canada already has universal drug insurance coverage for catastrophic expenses, and near universal insurance coverage for ordinary prescription drug costs. Neither is a centralized national program needed:  provincial/territorial/federal governments already have the authority to autonomously implement any kind of drug insurance system they wish within their respective jurisdictions.

Fourth, the study suggests that international experience proves there are other ways to achieve universal drug insurance coverage. Several advanced countries have mandatory universal private drug insurance systems supported by means tested public subsidies. Some aspects of Quebec’s drug insurance system are similar to these countries and Quebec has consistently provided the best access to innovative prescription drugs among all of Canada’s publicly funded drug plans.

According to Dr. Skinner, “The evidence suggests that the real problem with drug insurance in Canada is that existing public drug plans are grossly under-insuring patients compared to the coverage provided by private insurance plans. Public drug plans simply provide much fewer treatment options for patients, leaving 11 million Canadians with uninsured drug costs whenever their prescribed and preferred treatments are not covered under the public plan.”

Ms. Tran summed up the study’s recommendations by saying, “drug insurance reforms should focus on helping more Canadians gain the health advantages of the better coverage offered by private drug plans. We can learn a lot from mandatory universal private health insurance systems in other countries. In the meantime, governments should work to improve coverage for new medicines across existing public drug plans in Canada to match the patient health options provided by private drug insurance plans.”

Get the Study
The study, Pharmacare: what are the costs for patients and taxpayers? It was authored by Brett J Skinner (Ph.D.), Mark Rovere(Ph.D. candidate), Neil Mohindra (M.B.A.), and Kimberley Tran (M.A.). It is available online at: www.canadianhealthpolicy.com orwww.chpi.ca.

About CHPI
CHPI is a crowd-funded, consumer-driven, independent think-tank dedicated to conducting, publishing and communicating evidence-based research on the health system performance and health policy issues that are important to Canadians.

SOURCE Canadian Health Policy Institute

For further information: Kimberley Tran, Economist and Media Spokesperson, CHPI. Email: kimberley.tran@canadianhealthpolicy.com, Managing Editor, CHPI. Email: managing.editor@canadianhealthpolicy.com

Illegal Toker Or Legitimate Smoker? Marijuana-Smoking Employee Lawfully Dismissed

Article by Kirsten D. Hume

Given the increasing availability and use of medical marijuana in British Columbia, employers are often faced balancing the need to ensure a safe workplace and an employee’s right to legitimate medical treatment. A recent decision of the BC Human Rights Tribunal gives employers some welcome clarity on the limits of the duty to accommodate, the nature of bona fide occupational requirements (“BFORs”), and the legality of “zero tolerance policies” regarding drug use on the job.

In French v. Selkin Logging, the Tribunal dismissed a complaint brought by Mr. French, a heavy equipment operator for a logging company.  Mr. French alleged that his employer discriminated against him on the basis of disability by, among other things, not permitting him to smoke marijuana for pain management on the job.

Mr. French was treated for cancer in 2009 and returned to work in 2010.  It was widely known, including by his supervisor, that Mr. French was smoking marijuana on the job.  He and another employee shared six to eight joints a day during coffee and lunch breaks.

Mr. French’s supervisor only confronted him about his smoking after months of complaints from other employees and, more particularly, after Mr. French and a co-worker struck a moose with a workplace truck.  Marijuana was later found in the vehicle.  The supervisor told him that the company had a zero tolerance policy for drug use on the job; Mr. French later received a letter stating that his employment would be terminated unless he agreed to return to work “drug free”.

Mr. French asserted that he needed to smoke pot to manage his pain and that his physicians directed him to do so, as his cancer had recurred.  However, on probing this issue further, the Tribunal found that: he did not have a prescription; his doctors had not told him to smoke marijuana, and that there was no evidence that any doctor had condoned his smoking at work.  While the Tribunal could not determine whether the marijuana was “medical grade”, there was also no evidence that Mr. French was impaired on the job.

The Tribunal accepted that Mr. French was disabled, that he used marijuana for pain management, and had been terminated for using marijuana.

However, the Tribunal also found that the employer’s zero tolerance policy was a BFOR, even though it exceeded the minimum standard under occupational safety laws (which focus on impairment and endangerment at the workplace, rather than setting a zero tolerance rule).

First, the zero tolerance policy was created for safety reasons and properly linked to the performance of Mr. French’s job.  Second, it was adopted in the honest belief that it was necessary.  Third, it was reasonably necessary: the employer could not accommodate Mr. French’s smoking without undue hardship.

Because Mr. French’s marijuana use was not authorized, and thus illegal, it could not be treated like other medications.  Although there was no evidence that Mr. French was impaired or posed any danger, that did not mean the zero tolerance policy was unreasonable or unnecessary.  The employer’s delay in enforcing the policy did not preclude it from enforcing it later.  Further, Mr. French had not informed his employer of his need to smoke or otherwise facilitated the accommodation process.

In the circumstances, the requirement for reasonable accommodation did not require the employer to abet Mr. French’s smoking marijuana at work.

Key takeaways

The French decision highlighted several important points for employers:

  1. It may be within employers’ legitimate management rights to impose a general rule prohibiting the consumption of drugs or alcohol at the workplace, especially where workplace safety is of particular concern. On the other hand, policies that rely on strict application of a zero tolerance rule, without considering accommodation in individual circumstances, may offend the Code if, for example, an employee is legitimately using marijuana for medical purposes.
  2. A zero tolerance policy should not be found unreasonable simply because an employee has not shown signs of impairment or inability to work safely.
  3. Where an employee is using drugs such as marijuana on the job without proper authorization, or without disclosure to the employer, a court or tribunal may be less likely to find an employer’s refusal to permit such drug usage to contravene the Code.
  4. An employer’s delay in enforcing a drug policy will not necessarily preclude later enforcement (although it is preferable to administer policies promptly and consistently).
  5. The duty to accommodate is subject to reasonable limits, and does not rest solely on the employer. Employees must facilitate accommodation, and their failure to do so may result in their complaints being dismissed.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

Source: Mondaq

RBC profit rises to 2.4B, boosts payout as earnings hit record

By Alexandra Posadzki

THE CANADIAN PRESS

TORONTO – The chief executive of Royal Bank of Canada (TSX:RY) says” he’s confident RBC can weather tough economic conditions, even as its loan books have begun to feel the impact of lower oil prices.

“What gives me confidence during this period of market and economic uncertainty is that RBC is diversified across different businesses, client segments and geographies, has strict risk and cost discipline, and is backed by a strong capital position,” David McKay told analysts during a conference call Wednesday, after the bank announced its third-quarter results.

RBC boosted its dividend as it reported a profit of $2.475 billion, up four per cent from a year ago. That amounted to $1.66 per share of net income.

On an adjusted basis, RBC’s cash earnings were $1.68 cents per share one cent above analyst estimates.

The bank says its quarterly dividend will be increased by three per cent to 79 cents per share, up two cents per share.

However, the bank said it is beginning to be affected by the decline in the price of crude oil, which is now worth less than half what it was in the summer of 2014 and recently traded at the lowest levels in years.

“As we expected, low oil prices are challenging for some of our clients,” McKay said Thursday. “This quarter, we saw an uptick in impairments (impaired loans).”

The bank said total gross impaired loans rose more than 10 per cent over a three-month period to $2.38 billion as of July 31 a $234-million increase from the previous quarter, including $137 million linked to the oilpatch.

Impaired loans to the oilpatch soared to $183 million in the third quarter almost four times the $46 million recorded in the previous quarter.

RBC is the second bank to report an increase in impaired loans in the May to July quarter. On Tuesday, the Bank of Montreal (TSX:BMO) reported the oil and gas sector’s impaired loans grew $80 million from the previous quarter to $106 million.

Analysts say impaired loans to the oilpatch are manageable for Canada’s biggest lenders. The real trouble could come if consumer loans, such as residential mortgages, begin to suffer due to a rise in unemployment an impact that would take some time to materialize.

Mark Hughes, RBC’s chief risk officer, said the bank has a cautious outlook, but its consumer loan book isn’t showing any signs of stress.

About half of RBC’s total profit during the third quarter was from personal and commercial banking, including $1.239 billion from its Canadian operations a record for Royal driven by more volume and a 10 per cent rise in fee-based revenue.

Some of the bank’s other divisions didn’t do as well as last year.

RBC Capital Markets had $545 million of net income, down 15 per cent or $96 million from last year’s record high. The bank says RBC Capital experienced lower trading activity and lower equity origination.

In addition, a lower profit at RBC’s insurance business offset most of a year-over-year gain at its treasury services arm and wealth management had net income of $285 million little changed from last year.

The bank says its insurance results with net income falling $41 million or 19 per cent to $173 million were affected by a change in Canadian tax legislation and higher net claims costs in part of its business.

canada-press

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