The Alberta legislature has passed comprehensive amendments to the province’s labour and employment legislation. These changes were enacted through:

  • Bill 17: the Fair and Family-friendly Workplaces Act; and
  • Bill 30: An Act to Protect the Health and Well-being of Working Albertans.

This is the first of three articles summarizing the key amendments. This article outlines changes to employment standards under the Employment Standards Code (“ESC”). The second and third articles outline changes under the Labour Relations Code, the Occupational Health & Safety Act and the Workers’ Compensation Act.

Enhanced Leave Entitlements: A number of enhanced leave entitlements are now in effect. Employees are now generally eligible for leaves after 90 days of employment rather than one year (with the exception of Reservist Leave, which qualifying employees are entitled to after 26 weeks).

 Leave Length   Details
Personal and Family Responsibility Leave  5 days Allows employees to take leave for reasons relating to their own health, or in relation to family obligations
Long-Term Illness and Injury Leave up to 16 weeks/year Requires a medical certificate
Bereavement Leave up to 3 days/year Immediate family members
Domestic Violence Leave up to 10 days/year Available where the employee or another related person is the victim of domestic violence
Citizenship Ceremony Leave up to one half day Allows employees to attend their citizenship ceremonies
Critical Illness Leave – Adult Family Member up to 16 weeks To care for an ill or injured adult family member
Critical Illness Leave – Child up to 36 weeks For parents of critically ill or injured children
Death or Disappearance of Child Leave up to 52 weeks or 104 weeks 52 weeks are available where the child has disappeared / 104 weeks are available where the child died as a result of a crime
Compassionate Care Leave up to 27 weeks Caregiver status now includes non-primary caregivers
Maternity Leave up to 16 weeks Where pregnancy terminates within 16 weeks of the due date, the employee will still be eligible for leave ending either 16 weeks after the leave began or 6 weeks after the pregnancy terminated
Parental Leave up to 62 weeks Can start any time after the birth or adoption of a child, but must be completed within 78 weeks of the date the baby is born or placed with the parents

Compressed Work Weeks: Compressed work week arrangements will only be permissible if an “Averaging Agreement” is implemented. All such agreements require the support of the majority of affected employees, or must be contained within a collective agreement.

Deductions: Deductions from wages for faulty work or cash shortages are now explicitly prohibited.

Minimum Wage: Employers may no longer pay employees with disabilities less than the minimum wage. The current minimum wage is $13.60/hour and will be increasing to $15/hour on October 1, 2018.

Overtime: Overtime may now be banked for 6 months. Overtime banking will be calculated at time and a half for all overtime hours worked.

Holiday Pay: The requirement that a employee must have worked for 30 days in the 12 months before a holiday has been removed. There is no more distinction between regular and non-regular days of work. Holiday pay will be calculated as 5% of wages, general holiday pay, and vacation pay earned in the 4 weeks preceding the holiday.

Vacation Pay: Employees must be paid 4% of their total wages as vacation pay until they have been employed for 5 years, after which it increases to 6%. Half-day vacation increments are now allowed.

Termination and Temporary Layoffs: Employers are prohibited from forcing employees to use their statutory entitlements during their notice period. Group notice of termination has been increased and scaled as follows:

  • 50-100 employees: 8 weeks
  • 101-300 employees: 12 weeks
  • 301+ employees: 16 weeks

Layoffs are limited to 60 days within a 120-day period. A layoff may be extended if wages and benefits are paid and the employee agrees. Written notice of temporary layoff is required and must contain an effective date and an outline of applicable provisions of the ESC. The notice requirement may be waived where the layoff is the result of circumstances beyond an employer’s control. Recall notices for temporary layoffs must be in writing.

Termination pay will be calculated based on the previous 13 weeks of employment when the employee actually worked, not simply the calendar weeks preceding the termination.

Youth Employment: Youth under 13 may not work, unless the work qualifies as an ‘artistic endeavour’. Youth aged 13-15 may only work in ‘light work’ jobs. The Ministry will consult with employers to modernize the list of allowable ‘light work’ jobs. Youth aged 15 and under may not work after midnight. Youth under 16 are prohibited from working in a role that includes ‘hazardous work’. The Ministry will work with stakeholders to define ‘hazardous work’. Youth aged 16-17 will only be allowed to do ‘hazardous work’ with a permit.

Enforcement: A new administrative penalty system has been implemented. The government has 2 years to prosecute an employer for an offence under the ESC.

Many thanks to Ben Sakamoto for his assistance in drafting this article.