Canada Labour Market and Employment Update, March 11, 2022

Canada Labour Market

The Canadian labour market increased jobs to pre-pandemic levels in February. Employers did this by adding 337,000 jobs across the country. Factors contributing to the economic surge in jobs recovery included Health authorities relaxed Omicron restrictions based on case count and hospitalization trends. This relaxation enabled employers to open more services and increase operating levels, permitting them to hire and rehire workers on layoffs. 
Public places and spaces open up. Services sectors surged, accounting for much of the gains. This trend is clearly reflected in a 12.6% month-over-month employment increase in the following sectors: 

The private Sector Leads the way in the Canadian Labour Market

Private sector-led growth accounted for 347,000 jobs added in the Canadian labour market. These gains were not evenly distributed, with a high proportion of growth experienced in Ontario and Quebec and prairie provinces lagging in recovery with higher unemployment rates.
Meanwhile, public sector employment levels remain flat. This trend makes sense as public sector employment remained steady during the pandemic and did not experience the layoffs many in the private sector experienced.

Self-Employment Cools

After an initial surge of increased self-employment, many Canadians realize the self-employment life is not for them or as fruitful as imagined. They revert to seeking more traditional employment opportunities.

Canada Labour Market Equity  Improves but Gaps Remain.

Canada’s labour market achieved record-high employment participation rates for core working-age women, and Indigenous and BIPOC populations, but equity gaps remain.
However, older workers are not experiencing the jobs gain recovery and risk being left behind as the employment market transitions, changing skill requirements, and ageism takes a toll on opportunities for this demographic.

No Great Resignation in Canada

Unlike in the United States, mass resignations are not expected in Canada’s labour market, as employees and employers return to work in on-premise, remote or hybrid formats. Employers take a thoughtful approach, offering options and time to adjust to proposed changes.

The Implications

These factors impact the Canada Labour Market in many ways, including adding uncertainty among employees, confusion among recruiters, frustration among hiring managers, and increased risk for employers.

Employees notice their purchasing power shrink and consume news with mixed or nuanced messages about inflation. Messages surrounding the causes of inflation are politically torqued with a spin—objective and unbiased information on the topic is challenging to find. Anxiety is created not only by actual and perceived loss but also by a fear of missing out as news of a tight-labour market comes from loud and vocal stakeholders. Employees agonize over whether they have pressed hard enough to get more favourable terms with their employer and in the labour market. Speculation over the expected length and extent of current inflation levels creates more uncertainty about what people should pursue and how they should position themselves to navigate these conditions.

Recruiters receive cold responses and combative candidates with aggressive positions regarding salary expectations. There is movement in the market, and a mismatch of skills, uncertainty, and physical isolation create communication challenges during the exchanges. As recruiters fall short of meeting fill rates, they seek to increase terms and conditions. Increased rates do not create more candidates when looking in the wrong places. Increased rates do create structural cost increases for businesses.

Hiring managers are frustrated by difficulty managing budgets and risk and delays in recruiting, and employees with demands at times with overtures to leave.

Employers face increased input costs, downward price pressure, uncertain financials, and rough market conditions. The Canada Labour Market, if approached without foresight and sophistication by employers, recruiters and hiring managers, has the potential to exacerbate inflationary pressures as what occurred in the United States.

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Short Term Service Offerings

Short Term Service Offerings

Current environment  Heavy layoffs commenced in 2015 and more are expected in 2017. Wage freezes and wage rollbacks remain a water cooler topic. Capital spending reviews and cuts are in the headlines.  There are many signals that 2017 will continue to be about managing costs and running current operations as lean as possible.   But there is still major project work and maintenance for existing operations underway, and bids to submit to secure future work.  In 2017 companies are properly wary about adding staff or making long-term spending. Essential services and activities will go on but with a sharp eye on costs. There is less organizational slack in most organization charts which may increase the need for temporary or ad hoc assistance for either technical expertise or to have access to increased variable capacity.   

Services you may need:  You may need the plan to source labour and scale up rapidly for maintenance purposes or due to changes in schedule.  And you will need to ensure costs to get workers to the site are tightly controlled. Flying tradespeople across the country every shift may be justifiable in a tight labour market but makes little sense when local or regional options exist.

Labour relations or employee investigations may arise that require staff dedication of time or expertise that no longer exists within your organization.  These are examples of areas of short-term services where Workforce Delivery can help. 

Our knowledge and experience can allow us to build a labour supply strategy that takes the current market into account. We can provide plans and execute them as needed.  

Another area of concern in active projects and worksites is managing spikes in labour relations activity such as misconduct, substance abuse or increase in complaints.  Tension and animosity among workers can build due to the job market outlook or knowing that layoffs may be coming soon.  You need cost-effective options to deal with increased labour relations activity.  Or you may be facing what you consider to be regular workload levels resulting from managing your labour force, but the team you manage has been drastically reduced.  

Your internal capacity and expertise are not what it was two years ago, but the demands remain.  Workforce Delivery can pick up challenging labour relations issues for you such as collective bargaining, grievance handling and complex investigations.  

Where With Peopel Inc. can help – Effective and cost-conscious solutions.  With People Inc. can offer ad hoc labour relations and labour supply services for places where project work is still underway and existing operations in all sectors continue.   

Cost pressures may create an opportunity (or pressure) to review labour supply costs from top to bottom.  

Approaches or sources that were never up for serious consideration in the past may now make sense.  

With People Inc. can be the source for unbiased analysis of the value provided by various labour-sourcing strategies together with transition plans.

The final call remains yours, but demands have never been greater for your decision to be based on critical screening of all the options on the table since 2015.  Our services for labour relations or labour supply can be provided on an ad hoc basis at an hourly rate.  Some common service types we offer:  

  • Single grievance or investigation file completion. 
  • Interim backfill of an unexpected vacancy of a labour relations manager or site role. 
  • Develop a labour supply strategy, with the option to execute that strategy, reporting back progress. 
  • Provide collective bargaining services for a full round of bargaining with one or more trades or unions. 
  • Fulfill labour supply shortfall needs including sourcing, screening, onboarding and booking of travel and accommodations.  

With People Inc. supplies its own phones, common business software and computers and workspace.  So none of the items represent an added cost to our clients.  For full rates and terms please contact us.  Our principal labour relations Practitioner, Sam Kemble have a combined 18+ years of experience in all aspects of labour relations.  


To Include or Not to Include: HR protected absences & attendance

To Include or Not to Include: HR protected absences & attendance

Note: This Article is based in part on Canada (Attorney General) v. Bodnar, 2017 FCA 171 and is inspired in part by an article submitted by Adrian Miedema of Dentons on September 15, 2017.

Most front-line supervisors and managers will agree that when attendance becomes a problem, attendance management can introduce a frustrating and uncomfortable part of the job.

The image above is provided in jest, is light-hearted and can represent a small aspect of how on the surface, employees and employers can feel about work attendance management. In reality, a more accurate reflection would be akin to the age-old tip of the iceberg analogy.

In the first instance, there is the necessary human need to be empathetic, supportive, and hands-off, particularly as absences represent a very core intersection between work and teammates’ private lives. Many managers are properly reluctant to rush into this space and generally do not do so unless there is a legitimate business need.

Paradoxically, more aggregate information can lead to less intrusiveness. Metrics are required to be hands-off and to focus and intervene where focus and intervention are required.

For the same reasons for managers and supervisors, attendance management is often one of the more uncomfortable spaces for employees and union representatives to occupy. When parties “dig in” to their advocacy roles, too much focus and debate can be directed towards differing perspectives on what can be done (or shared) versus what must be done. This disproportionate focus on the part of advocates is often to the detriment to the very employee(s) and the employer(s) they are representing.

A recent case confirms that data collection and inclusion of culpable, non-culpable, and even human rights protection-related absences; can be used as part of an overall attendance management plan so long as the collection is delinked from pre-determined consequences.

For example, multiple management response streams must be in place to address

  1. culpable absence (through a disciplinary process),
  2. non-culpable but non-HR protected issues (through attendance management), or
  3. human rights protected issues (which would necessarily need to be managed through an accommodation management response stream).

I would argue there are multiple combinations and/or hybrid approaches of the above that need to be carefully implemented in many cases. Those who have administered a number of these files know that individuals and their behaviour do not necessarily fit neatly into one of the (3) three categories above.

Be sure to:

  • document,
  • show your work, and
  • be thoughtful and explicit in your approach;

particularly if applying a combination or hybrid of the three above-noted streams.

The case Canada (Attorney General) versus Bodnar reviewed a grievance of an attendance management policy that counted non-culpable and human rights-protected absences for both attendance-rate averaging and “flagging” purposes to activate an appropriate management response stream.

Attendance Management Policy (in Brief):

The policy required supervisors to monitor attendance patterns that may arise under their purview, such as employees missing patterns of particular days (i.e. on Friday, Monday, or after payday) or exceeding the rolling 12-month average of shifts missed among their peer group.

The attendance management program was designed and intended to be non-disciplinary.

If it was determined the absences were culpable, that individual would be removed from the attendance management stream and managed under the normal disciplinary process.

If the absences were the result of situations related to a Human Rights protected category (i.e. disability and family status), those files were removed from the attendance management program. Human rights-protected absences were addressed through a managed accommodation process.

Lower Board Decision:

The Federal Public Sector Labour Relations and Employment Board (“the Board”) (it is worthwhile noting the Board is viewed as an expert tribunal) found that the employer policy was discriminatory.

This was because it included statistics and trigger thresholds for absences related to Human Rights status-protected grounds (predominantly physical and mental ability and family status); to flag individuals for potential inclusion into formalized attendance case management.

Issues Arising from Appeal:

  1. Standard of Review (the standard of correctness was applied in respect to the prima facie case of discrimination finding by the Board and the effect of amalgamating protected and non-protected leave entitlement/obligations, and a standard of reasonableness was applied to the balance of the decision),
  2. Whether the Board erred in finding a prima facie case of discrimination by including all absences in the calculations of the attendance management program,
  3. Whether the Board erred in amalgamating HR-protected leave entitlements with other leave entitlements, which has the effect of expanding human rights protection status to non-protected leave entitlements and attendance instances.

In a strong statement and within the context of the reasonableness test deference afforded to expert tribunals, the Court found the Board failed to establish proof of adverse impact by a claimant and “…unreasonably found that the respondents had made out a case of prima facie discrimination in the absence of any proof of adversity.”

“Indeed, it is difficult to imagine how an attendance management plan…could ever function if an employer were required to subtract all absences due to disability from the group average as the reasons for an absence are not always immediately apparent, and employees’ medical conditions may well evolve and worsen from a transitory illness to a disability. It is thus difficult to conceive how a bright line could be drawn in a timely way between absences due to disability and those due to other reasons for calculating an…average absence rate. “
“Likewise, nothing adverse flowed under the [policy] from including absences due to disability or for family-related leave in the total number of days an employee was absent for purposes of simply determining if the employee exceeded the relevant peer group threshold.”
“…there is nothing untoward in tasking supervisors with ensuring the legitimacy of employee absences.”

The Court found that not only is it not contrary to human rights to gather the statistics on all absences, but it is also, in fact, necessary to have a functioning attendance management plan. The Court further confirms the ability of supervisors and managers to verify employee absences’ legitimacy through the normal course of managing their team.

With this understanding, we can debate less on what can be done (in terms of testing absence legitimacy and gathering metrics) and focus instead on what needs to be done to manage attendance within the appropriate management response stream.

Where the rubber hits the road is with respect to having structured, multiple response streams tailored to address culpable, non-culpable and human rights-protected absences administered:

  • with prudence,
  • in a dignified manner,
  • on a case-by-case basis.