Earning the minimum wage

Last summer I started my first job as a dishwasher. My starting wage was $12 an hour. I thought that seemed pretty low, but it was my first job so I didn’t question it. Then I discovered it was below minimum wage. I gathered my courage and raised the issue with my boss. He agreed to bump my wage to the legal minimum.

– Fred, Langley, BC

Minimum wage is the lowest wage an employer can pay a worker. Here are eight key things to know about the minimum wage in British Columbia. 

What you should know

1. The minimum wage applies to most (but not all) workers

BC law requires employers to pay workers at least a minimum wage. This law applies to most workers in the province. But some workers aren’t covered by it. For example, independent contractors aren't covered. Nor are babysitters, or people working in certain licensed professions. 

To learn if you’re covered, see our guidance on who’s covered by BC’s employment standards law.

You can't contract yourself out of the minimum wage

If you are covered by BC’s employment standards law, then even if you sign a contract for wages lower than the minimum wage, you are still owed at least the minimum wage. You cannot contract yourself out of what is owed to you under the law. However, if your contract promises you more than the minimum wage, you should receive that higher wage.

2. The general minimum wage applies to most workers

Most workers who are covered by the BC minimum wage law (see if you’re covered) are entitled to the general minimum wage. As of June 1, 2022, the general minimum wage is $15.65 per hour.

Special minimum wage rates apply for some jobs:

  • live-in camp leaders

  • live-in home support workers

  • resident caretakers

  • farm workers who pick crops by hand

These are explained below.

Liquor servers are entitled to the general minimum wage

Prior to June 1, 2021, there was a special minimum wage rate for liquor servers that was lower than the general rate. That has been phased out. Now, liquor servers are entitled to the general minimum wage (plus any tips they receive).

3. Minimum wages for certain live-in workers are based on a daily rate

Minimum wages for live-in camp leaders and live-in home support workers are based on a daily rate.

live-in camp leader is someone who:

  • works for a charity at a summer or seasonal camp for people under age 19,

  • provides instruction and counselling to campers, and

  • provides those services on a 24 hour per day live-in basis without being charged for room and board.

As of June 1, 2022, the minimum wage for live-in camp leaders is $125.06 for each day or part day worked.   

live-in home support worker is someone who:

  • works for an employer providing government-funded home support services for a sick or disabled person, and

  • provides those services on a 24 hour per day live-in basis without being charged for room and board.

As of June 1, 2022, the minimum wage for live-in home support workers is $116.68 for each day or part day worked. 

4. A resident caretaker’s minimum wage depends on the size of the apartment

resident caretaker is someone who:

  • lives in an apartment building that has more than eight residential suites, and

  • is employed as a caretaker, custodian, janitor or manager of that building.

There may be more than one resident caretaker in a building. The minimum wage for resident caretakers is a monthly wage based on the number of suites in the building. Where they work less than a full month, their wages are prorated (that is, adjusted based on the number of days worked).

As of June 1, 2022, the minimum wage for a resident caretaker is:

  • For an apartment with nine to 60 suites: $937.82 per month plus $37.58 for each suite.

  • For an apartment with more than 60 suites: $3,194.43 per month.

5. Farm workers who pick crops by hand must be paid a minimum piece rate

The law in BC includes a detailed description of who is considered a farm worker. Farm workers who pick crops by hand may be paid by piece rate — that is, by the amount picked. 

As of 2022, the minimum piece rates are:

Minimum piece rates for farm workers

* The rate for daffodils does not include vacation pay

6. Tips don’t count towards your wages

Tips (also called "gratuities") are paid by customers in appreciation for a service. Under BC law, tips don’t count as wages. Your regular wage — before tips — must be at least the minimum wage.

For example, say you earn $5 per hour in tips. Your employer can’t pay you only $13 an hour on the rationale that your total earnings ($13 in wages plus $5 in tips) exceed the minimum wage. What you earn in tips is your money. It can’t figure into your employer’s calculation of your wage.

Your employer can require you to pool your tips and to share them with workers whose work doesn’t generally get recognized with tips — for example, dishwashers. Your employer doesn’t get a cut of the tips, unless they’re doing the same work as the workers earning tips. 

Employers can't use tips to cover business expenses

Your employer can’t use your tips to cover business expenses. For example, they can’t use your tips to offset losses from customers who dine and dash, or pay for an item you accidentally broke. If they do, you’re entitled to that money back. See our guidance on if your employer hasn't paid you.

7. If you are paid on commission, minimum wage still applies

If you are paid on commission, and your earnings fall below the minimum wage for the number of hours you work, your employer must pay you the difference between your commission earned and the minimum wage. This is the case whether you are paid 100% on commission or part commission and part hourly wages.

Also, your employer cannot use your earnings from a subsequent pay period where you earn more than the minimum wage to top up your earnings in a pay period where you earn less than minimum wage. 

8. Trainees are entitled to the minimum wage

The main law in BC that protects workers applies to someone who is being trained by an employer for the employer’s business. This means the rules around minimum wage apply to trainees

However, if you want extra training for something your current job doesn’t require, your employer needn’t cover it. For example, suppose you want to do training that might set you up for a promotion but won’t be useful in your current job. That’s commendable. But it’s on you. 

  • This information applies to British Columbia, Canada
  • Reviewed for legal accuracy in June 2022
  • Time to read: 6 minutes

Reviewed for legal accuracy by

Valerie Dixon, City of Vancouver

Valerie Dixon

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