Spending It All in One Place: The New Minimum Wage

By: 

David Huxtable

On September 15, 2016, the minimum wage went up for workers in BC.  The general minimum wage moved from $10.45 per hour up to $10.85 per hour for most workers. For servers who work in a restaurant with a liquor license, and whose “primary duties” are to serve “food or liquor directly to customers,” your minimum wage just went from $9.20 per hour to $9.60 per hour.

For people not paid by the hour, there were also minor increases:

  • For live-in home support workers paid at a daily rate, your daily minimum went up from $104.50 per day to $108.50 per day.
  • For people working in summer camps as live-in camp leaders, your daily rate went from $83.60 per day to $86.80 per day.
  • For residential caretakers, you also received a teeny, tiny raise as well. For an apartment with 9 to 60 suites, your rates went from $627 per month plus $25.13 for each suite to $651 per month plus $26.09 for each suite. If your building has more than 60 suites, your monthly rate went from $2135.71 per month to $2,217.46 per month.
  • There are also new piece rates for those who pick fruits and vegetables.

I know, don’t spend it all in one place!

These changes are part of the BC Liberal government’s phased-in rate increases that began in 2011, when they allowed the minimum wage to increase from $8 per hour to $10.25 per hour over the course of a year. Since then the rate has been raised twice; in 2015 it went up 20 cents, and last month it went up another 40 cents.

It’s important to keep in mind what a minimum wage is, and who it affects. A minimum wage is the legal minimum that a boss can pay a worker. When a boss pays the minimum, they are, in effect, saying, “If I could legally get away with paying you less, I would.” The legal minimum applies to almost everyone. A worker cannot agree to take less to get or keep a job. Even if the worker agrees (because they are desperate to get or keep the job) they can still report their boss later and hopefully get the wages they are owed. If a boss has hired you for less than the legal minimum (even if it’s under the table), they are likely breaking the law, and you should come and see Stephen or David at the Employment Standards Legal Advocacy Project (ESLAP) at TAPS.

You may have noticed that I have said that the legal minimum applies to “most,” or “almost all” workers. Of course there is a catch. There is always a catch (and usually, it’s a catch 22)!

Employees in the following categories are not protected by the Employment Standards Act and minimum wage laws in BC:

  • secondary students working at their high school
  • secondary students on “work experience or occupational study class”
  • baby sitters
  • someone getting EI benefits who is working in a “job creation” program
  • people participating in “Youth Community Action” who are getting financial credit towards their tuition
  • anyone on a youth or disability allowance or income assistance who is participating in a work-training program.

ESLAP staff have had people who fall into these categories come in to seek help, and we would encourage people to do so. We will not be able to file a complaint on your behalf through the Employment Standards Board, but there are other means by which workers can have their voices heard.

For the majority of folks reading this, your workplace very likely falls under the Employment Standards Act, and therefore the minimum wage laws do apply to you. Make sure that your employer is paying you the legal minimum (at least!). If you look at your recent paystub and find that you are not making the new rate, you should ask your employer about this. It is possible that they have not heard the news. If your employer resists the new minimum, come in to see Stephen or David at TAPS. If you now realise that you were not making the old legal minimum (that is, $10.45), come in to see Stephen or David. You have six months to file a complaint about a violation of the Employment Standards Act.