Under the Civil Code of Québec, any employment relationship gives rise to a contractual relationship between employer and employee. An employment contract may be oral or written and is presumed to be of indefinite duration.
Under such a contract, the employer is required to (i) allow the work to be performed, (ii) pay agreed-upon wages and (iii) take appropriate measures to protect the employee’s health, safety and dignity.
It is generally recommended that the terms and conditions of the employment contract be set out in writing. They could include, for example, non-competition and non-solicitation covenants, along with confidentiality and intellectual property protection clauses designed to protect the legitimate interests of your business. The contract must be drafted in French, unless you expressly agree on another language with the employee.
Guaranteed minimum entitlements
The Act Respecting Labour Standards sets out minimum requirements for employment conditions and no employment contract may provide for less than those minimums. Under labour standard regulations:
- Workers are entitled to a minimum wage rate ($13.10 per hour in April 2021). The hourly rates are different for tipped employees and other workers in specific industries.
- Salaries must be paid at regular intervals no longer than 16 days, with a few exceptions.
- The regular workweek is 40 hours. Hours worked beyond the regular workweek are paid at time and a half (some exceptions apply).
- All employees are entitled to eight statutory holidays per year, paid by the employer.
- Employees accrue annual leave ranging from one day to three weeks and are entitled to vacation pay of 4% or 6% of their gross wages during every year of employment, based on their length of service.
- Employees are entitled to paid time off, including sick leave, family care leave, parental leave and bereavement leave.
- The parents of a newborn or adopted child are entitled to 18 weeks of maternity leave or 5 weeks of paternity leave and to 65 weeks of parental leave, without pay.
- With some exceptions, employers are required to provide, within the prescribed timeline, a notice of termination or pay in lieu of notice to any employees they want to let go, dismiss or lay off for more than six months.
- Termination of employment for 10 or more employees over two months is considered a mass layoff and is subject to specific rules.
- Employers must take reasonable steps to prevent psychological harassment and must adopt and make available to their employees a psychological harassment and complaint policy that includes a section on unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature.
You are not required to offer fringe benefits, such as group insurance and retirement plan contributions, but doing so could make it easier for you to attract and retain talent. Depending on the total number of employees on your payroll, you might be required to set up a Voluntary Retirement Savings Plan, or VRSP.
- For an overview of wages in Greater Montréal, refer to the guide prepared by the Government of Québec (in French only).