A minimum wage is the lowest hourly pay employers can legally pay their employees. In Canada, the minimum wage varies by province and territory, with each jurisdiction setting its own rules and regulations regarding employee compensation.
The British Columbia (BC) government passed the Fair Wages Commission Act in 2017 and appointed the Fair Wages Commission, an independent body from the government, to examine whether the minimum wage in British Columbia should be changed.
The Fair Wages Commission looked at the wages of people who worked in low-wage jobs and what factors contributed to how much they made. The BC government came to resolutions about minimum wages that were dependent on occupations.
This article explores the peculiarities of the BC jurisdiction as well as key points to consider.
What is the Current Minimum Wage in British Columbia
The current minimum wage in British Columbia is $15.20 per hour.
The minimum wage applies regardless of how employees are paid, whether hourly, salary, commission or on an incentive basis.
If an employee’s wage is below minimum wage in British Columbia for the hours they worked, the employer must top up their payment so that it’s equal to minimum wage. Employees must be paid at least minimum wage.
The government of BC claims to believe that every worker in the province deserves to make a fair wage for their work.
So, they established a Fair Wages Commission to suggest a fair and predictable way to a $15 an-hour general minimum wage and to ensure a fair wage for alternate minimum wage earners.
They also aimed to examine the imbalance between minimum wage and living wage and to make sure working people in British Columbia can make ends meet better.
Recent History of Minimum Wage Rates in British Columbia
Over the last decade, the minimum wage in British Columbia has been steadily ascending. The following table shows the 10 most recent minimum wage changes in British Columbia:
Date Hourly Minimum Wage
June 1, 2021 $15.20
June 20, 2020 $14.60
June 1, 2019 $13.85
June 1, 2018 $12.65
September 15, 2017 $11.35
September 15, 2016 $10.85
September 15, 2015 $10.45
May 1, 2012 $10.25
November 1, 2011 $9.50
May 1, 2011 $8.75
Source: Government of Canada
British Columbia Student Wage Rates
Students are allowed to work in Canada, and it is essential you know your rights as a student employee. The vast majority of students that work off-campus usually earn the minimum wage, although there are some exceptions.
In BC, regardless of the student’s age or work hours, the same wage rate applies. At the moment, the amount is $15.20. It was $14.60 as recently as 2021.
Exceptions to Minimum Wage in British Columbia
There are, however, exceptions to the rules about minimum wage in British Columbia. Certain job positions have different minimum wages and payment structures. Some of these are:
- Primarily working as servers of food or beverages or both.
- Serving alcohol on a regular basis to guests, customers, patrons or members.
- Working at an establishment that holds a liquor license.
While liquor servers were always paid under minimum wage excluding tips and gratuities in the past, they are now required to receive the regular minimum wage of $15.20, in addition to any tips and gratuities they get.
Live-in Camp Leaders:
These include those that:
- Are employed by a charity at a seasonal or summer camp for people under the age of 19 years old
- Provide instruction and counselling to campers
- Provide said services in an all-day, live-in situation without being charged for living and sleeping at the facilities
Live-in camp leaders are paid a daily rate instead of an hourly rate.
Their daily wage rate is $121.65.
Live-in Home Support Workers:
These include those that:
- Work for an agency, corporation or other employers that provide live-in support services (through government-funded initiatives) for anyone with an acute or chronic illness or disability that doesn’t require admission to a hospital.
- Provide said services on an all-day, live-in situation without being charged for living and sleeping at the facilities
Live-in-home support workers are also paid a daily rate.
Their daily wage is $113.50 per day or part day worked.
These include those that:
- Are hired to supervise or take care of people in a group home or family-type residential dwelling, and
- Are required by their employer to live on the premises while employed. This excludes foster parents, live-in home support workers, and domestic or night attendants
Resident caretakers are paid on a monthly basis.
The minimum wage for resident caretakers for apartment buildings containing 9 to 60 suites is $912.28 with an extra $35.56 per suite and $3,107.42 per month if there are over 60 suites.
There are other exceptions to the minimum wage law in British Columbia, such as farmworkers who harvest crops and have the alternative to work at a piece rate.
If you work on a piece-rate, you are being paid in terms of quantity of work, which would be agreed upon in advance.
The formula used to calculate piece-rate work is: Piece rate x weight or volume picked.
Minimum Wage Pay Cheque Deductions
An employer may only deduct money from an employee’s wages if they are legally required to do such or the employee approves said deduction in writing. Legally-required deductions include:
- Federal income tax
- Federal Employment Insurance premiums (EI)
- Canada Pension Plan contributions (CPP)
- A court order to garnish wage
If an employee agrees in writing, deductions can also include:
- Medical premiums
- Repayment of payroll advances
- Purchases made from an employer
- Accidental overpayments
For your authorization to be valid, it must be in writing and clearly indicate the following:
- Specific amounts
- Frequency of the deductions
This makes sure that you understand what you are signing and how it will affect your pay in the indicated periods.
Statutory Holiday Pay Rules in British Columbia
In the province of British Columbia, employees who are covered by the Employment Standards Act are entitled to statutory holiday pay for Christmas Day and New Year’s Day if the employee has been employed by the employer for at least 30 calendar days before the statutory holiday. Other requirements include:
- The employee must have either worked or earned wages for 15 of the 30 calendar days preceding the statutory holiday
- Alternatively, they must have worked under an averaging agreement at any time within that 30-day period
British Columbia employees are entitled to statutory holiday pay even if the statutory holiday falls on a day that would otherwise be a day off according to the employee’s normal work schedule.
Statutory holiday pay in British Columbia must be an amount equal to at least an average day’s pay, based on dividing the number of wages (not including overtime wages, but vacation pay is included) paid or payable to the employee in the 30 calendar day period before the statutory holiday by the number of days the employee worked or earned wages within the 30 calendar day period.
Furthermore, BC employees who are given a day off on the applicable statutory holiday, or who agree with the employer to substitute another day for the statutory holiday, are entitled to statutory holiday pay for the day off.
British Columbia employers may require employees to work on a statutory holiday.
If an employee works on the statutory holiday, then the employee is entitled to statutory holiday pay plus 1.5 times the employee’s regular wage for time worked up to 12 hours, and double the employee’s regular wage for any time worked over 12 hours.
Another option is that the employer and employee can agree to substitute another day off for the statutory holiday with statutory holiday pay
If you are an employee, it’s crucial to know the minimum wage in BC so that you don’t get played by dubious employers.
Also note that apart from the general minimum wage rate, specific categories of employees may be subject to different hourly rates according to an exemption from the general Alberta employment standards.
For example, residential caretakers and live-in camp leaders may be paid a lower hourly rate than other employees, depending on their duties.
When it all comes down to it, you should be fairly compensated for your labour. If you aren’t, then your employer is breaking the law. This applies whether the employee is part-time or full-time and whether they’re paid hourly or weekly.
If you have any questions or concerns about payment at your workplace, contact the Employment Standards Branch of British Columbia.
FAQs on Minimum Wage in British Columbia:
Which province has the highest minimum wage?
The Canadian province with the highest minimum wage is British Columbia.
Who has the lowest minimum wage in Canada?
Saskatchewan has the lowest minimum wage in Canada.
Are lunch breaks paid in BC?
As for shifts between 5 to 10 hours, an employee is entitled to a 30-minute break, whether paid or unpaid. Additionally, two 30-minute breaks are permitted for shifts of more than 10 hours. A break can be taken in two 15-minute parts if both the employer and the employee agree.
Does everyone get a raise when the minimum wage goes up?
In the event of minimum wage is raised, employers and business owners are legally obligated to raise the hourly wage of their minimum wage employees, but only those that earn the minimum wage.
Hi, I'm Adeola Adegoke. I am a licensed Insurance Broker in Manitoba, and I hold a master’s degree in Mathematical Sciences (with a major in Financial Modeling) from the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS), Tanzania.
Also, I have a second master's degree in Statistics from the University of Regina, and I am currently pursuing my Ph.D. in Statistics at the University of Manitoba.
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