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There are a lot of rules about working – rules that your employer must follow and rules about how you should behave. Here are some things you should know about the working world. 

Legal Rights

When you get a job in BC, the law says that an employer must give young and new workers a health and safety orientation and training specific to the workplace.

Workers in British Columbia have four basic health and safety rights:

  • The right to know about all the existing or potential hazards in the workplace
  • The right to participate in the health and safety activities in the workplace
  • The right to refuse unsafe work if you are being directed to do something you believe you could hurt you or someone else
  • The right not to be discriminated against

Watch this WorkSafeBC video to learn more about your workplace rights and responsibilities.

Your employers must:

  • Provide the necessary safety training, instruction and supervision;
  • Let you know about the hazards that you might be exposed to;
  • Provide the necessary protective equipment;
  • Ensure that you are made aware of all known or reasonably foreseeable health or safety hazards at work,Workplace and safety rules;
  • Location of first aid facilities and how to get first aid and report illnesses and injuries; and
  • Remedy any workplace conditions that are hazardous to your health or safety.

For more on some of the safety risks you may encounter and your rights on the job, visit the WorkSafeBC website.

Getting Hurt on the Job

Sometimes workers get hurt on the job. WorkSafeBC helps workers who are injured or get sick because of their work. WorkSafeBC makes safety rules and sends inspectors to most workplaces to check if they are safe. Employers pay for this protection, so there is no cost to workers.

Workers who can’t work because of an accident at work or illness may get money. If a worker dies at work, the family may be compensated with money. Check the website of WorkSafeBC.


Workplace Standards

In British Columbia, the Employment Standards Branch (ESB) is the government department that is responsible for setting workplace standards for most employers throughout the province. The Employment Standards Act is the legislation that governs most employers in BC. This video provides a brief overview of the responsibilities of the Branch.

Hours of work and overtime

In British Columbia, the standard work day is eight hours and the standard work week is 40 hours. When you work more than these hours, you should generally get overtime pay.

Your employer must pay you overtime when you have no averaging agreement with your employer. An averaging agreement means that the hours of work are averaged over a period of one, two, three or four weeks. Your employer must pay you overtime if they ask you to work more hours in a day than you agreed to in your averaging agreement.

You are also entitled to overtime if your employer asks you to work more than eight hours in a day or more than 40 hours in a week. The amount of overtime pay you get depends on the number of extra hours you work. Your employer must pay you time and a half (one and one-half times your regular pay) for each hour you work after eight hours. Your employer must pay you double time (two times your regular pay) for each hour you work after 12 hours.

Minimum wage

There is a minimum wage law for most jobs. Minimum wage means the lowest amount of money that the employer may pay you for your work. Both full-time and part-time workers have the right to the minimum wage.

The minimum wage changes from time to time. As of June 2021, the minimum wage for most jobs in BC is $15.20 per hour and the liquor server minimum wage is also $15.20 per hour. See Minimum Wage for more information.

Minimum daily pay

If you come to work as your employer asks you to do, you must be paid for at least two hours, even if there is no work to do. If you have an averaging agreement and you agreed to work more than eight hours in a day, you must be paid for at least four hours, even if there is no work to do.

Working without a break

You can work for five hours without a break. After 5 hours, your employer has to give you a break of 30 minutes.

Holidays you get paid for

There are ten statutory holidays in BC. Normally, on a statutory holiday, you take the day off work but you still get paid. They are called statutory holidays because the law says these days are holidays, and statute is another name for a law made by the government. The statutory holidays are:

  • New Year's Day – January 1
  • BC Family Day – Second Monday in February
  • Good Friday – On a Friday between March 20 and April 23
  • Victoria Day – May 24 if it’s a Monday, otherwise the last Monday in May
  • Canada Day – July 1
  • BC Day – First Monday in August
  • Labour Day – First Monday in September
  • Thanksgiving Day – Second Monday in October
  • Remembrance Day – November 11
  • Christmas Day – December 25

Easter Sunday, Easter Monday, and Boxing Day are not statutory holidays. To get paid for the statutory holiday, you must have been employed for at least 30 calendar days and worked on at least 15 of the 30 days before the statutory holiday.

If you work under an averaging agreement any time in the 30 days before the statutory holiday, you automatically have the right to the statutory holiday.

Vacation pay

All employers have to give you at least two weeks’ paid vacation every year. If you have worked for the same employer for one to four years, then your employer has to give you two weeks’ paid vacation. If you have worked for the same employer for five years or more, then your employer has to give you three weeks’ paid vacation. If you leave your job before you get your vacation, then your employer must give you some extra money called vacation pay.


Belonging to a Union

Unions are for the protection of employees. A union is a group of employees who join together to collectively negotiate wages and working conditions with the employer. Everyone has the right to form a union if most of the employees want a union. 

Your union and your employer will negotiate terms of employment such as pay, vacation time, sick pay, and other benefits. This process is called "collective bargaining". After deciding the terms of employment the agreement will be memorialized as a contract called a collective agreement. The collective agreement sets out your rights and working conditions. 

Your union represents you when you have an issue with your employer. If you have a problem with your employer, then you can notify the union. The union will speak to the employer on your behalf.

Unions are required to follow certain rules The rules say what unions can and can’t do. In BC, the rules are written into a set of laws called the Labour Relations Code.


Paying Income Taxes

When you earn money (income), you have to pay tax on it. You do this by filling out an income tax return. A tax return is basically your report to the government of all of your income and some other financial details for a given year. While your return may show that you have to pay more tax, you may also be eligible for a tax rebate if you have credits for expenses like health care, child care or school.

If you are going to file your first tax return and don't know where to begin, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) offers an online course to help you learn how to file a tax return. See also Personal income tax.

Income tax is collected by the CRA on behalf of the federal government, provinces, and territories. The deadline for filing your tax return is usually the end of April. There are financial penalties for filing a late return if you owe the government money. The best source of income tax information is the CRA.

The amount of income tax that a person pays is based on the amount of taxable income earned during the previous calendar year and any tax credits that have been earned. Keep a record of your income from all sources. If you work for someone else, they are obligated to send you a statement listing your income and any deductions that have been made for income taxes, employment insurance, Canada Pension Plan, etc. Use this information to fill out your tax return.

You can fill out and send your tax return on paper or electronically.


You can view and print out the General Income Tax and Benefit Package, or download the files onto your computer. You can also order a printed copy of the General Income Tax and Benefit Package, and other forms and publications.

To file your return over the Internet via CRA’s NETFILE service, you will need to purchase commercial tax filing software or have your return filed by a professional tax service. CRA will provide you with an access code to connect to their server so that you can send your data to them.

You may also be able to file your tax return on the phone or by paper. To learn more about these options see: Doing your taxes

After your tax return has been processed, CRA will mail you a Notice of Assessment showing any changes or corrections made to the tax return (such as identifying and correcting a math error). If you are entitled to a refund because CRA agrees with the calculations on your return that you overpaid your taxes during the year, CRA will issue a refund.


On-the-Job Etiquette

Got a summer job? Or just landed your first regular job? You should know that your employer has expectations about how you should behave on the job. Here are some tips for what’s expected in most workplaces:

  • Show up: You are expected to be on time and ready to work. Employers will fire people who show up late or are no-shows for work. Show integrity by keeping your word about your availability to work.
  • Dress appropriately: Personal grooming is important. If you don’t know the dress code in your workplace, find out. That might mean asking your boss or the human resources department.
  • Speak appropriately: Don’t use coarse language. Be respectful to other workers and to customers.
  • Customer service: Many jobs involve working with customers. Employers want their employees to have good “soft skills” such as being pleasant, courteous and helpful. You should be able to speak with many different types of people and represent the company in a professional way, even when customers are upset. If a situation gets out-of-hand, then tell your supervisor.
  • Cellphones: Avoid using your personal cellphone while at your workplace. Keep cellphones off and avoid texting. You should only listen to music while you work, if it is approved by your employer.
  • Friends and family: Family or friends should not visit you while you are on the job. It might be okay if you work in the food court in the mall and family or friends stop by to buy food, but your friends should not hang out where you are working.
Last reviewed date: 2021/ Apr