On February 24, 2022, the National Assembly of Quebec passed and assented to Bill 14, An Act to ensure the protection of interns in the workplace (the Act), which is intended to better protect trainees who complete on-the-job training as part of their study program, by granting them certain rights and protections with respect to short-term leaves and with respect to psychological or sexual harassment.
This new law, which will come into force on August 24, 2022, will apply to any person, employee or not, who performs an “internship” in Quebec or outside Quebec for a Quebec employer, provided that the residence or domicile of the intern is in the provinces. The law defines “training” as follows:
“[A]any job shadowing activity or acquisition or application of skills required to obtain a permit to practice issued by a professional order or forming part of a program of studies or a training program at the secondary, professional, college or university level offered by an educational institution and leading to a diploma, certificate or attestation of studies”.
As of August 24, 2022, interns will now have:
- The right to be absent for short periods, i.e. the following days/for the following reasons:
- certain statutory holidays;
- Quebec National Day;
- in the event of illness, to fulfill parental or family obligations or to care for a loved one;
- on the occasion of death or funeral in their family;
- the day of their marriage or civil union;
- at the birth of their child, the adoption of a child or in the event of termination of pregnancy; and
- for a pregnancy-related medical examination.
- The right to a training environment free from psychological or sexual harassment;
- Protection against retaliation for exercising any of the rights conferred by law;
- The right to file a complaint for psychological harassment or a prohibited practice with the Standards, Equity, Health and Safety Commission (the CNESST) and have it heard by the Administrative Labor Tribunal (the ALT).
Therefore, employers will have an ancillary obligation to ensure that a harassment-free training environment is provided and to take reasonable steps to prevent and end harassment. Similarly, employers will be prohibited from terminating training, dismissing, suspending or transferring a trainee, discriminating against or retaliating against a trainee, or imposing any other sanction on a trainee because of the exercise of a right provided for by law.
The employer must also inform the trainee of the rights provided for by law and must ensure that the exercise by a trainee of a right resulting from the law does not compromise the success of his studies, his training or the obtaining of a license to practice a trade.
It will be up to the CNESST to take all measures to ensure compliance with the law. Additionally, employers will be subject to a fine of $600 to $1,200 (for a first offense) for violations of the law, in addition to any amounts they may be ordered to pay interns directly by the ALT. .
Finally, it is important to emphasize that the Act provides that directors and officers will be presumed liable in the event of an offense committed by a legal person, a representative, an agent or an employee thereof, hence the importance for directors and officers to exercise due diligence and take all necessary precautions to prevent violations.
The entry into force of the law confirms the will of the legislator to protect the trainees who follow a training within the framework of a school program. To this end, it is important to remember that people who carry out in-company training outside this framework are generally considered to be “employees” within the meaning of the Labor Standards Act and therefore benefit from all the protections offered by this law and its regulations, including the right to receive the minimum wage for all hours worked.
Moreover, it is interesting to note that the adoption of this new law comes only a few months after the legislator extended the application of the Act respecting industrial accidents and occupational diseases and the Occupational Health and Safety Act for interns on an observation or unpaid work internship.
- The intern may be absent on June 25 when the National Day falls on a Sunday and that day is not an internship day for the intern. In addition, the trainee is entitled to compensatory leave of one (1) day on the working day preceding or following the National Holiday, when his work is not interrupted on that day and the trainee is required to participate in his training. The same mechanism applies when the national holiday falls on a day which is not normally a training day. ↩
- Up to ten (10) days per year. ↩
- In these cases, the trainee is entitled to five (5) days.↩