Changes to employment standards rules are proposed in Bill 32: the Restoring Balance in Alberta’s Workplaces Act.

Choose the correct variance

Before submitting an application, choose the right variance for your situation and know the rules that apply:

COVID-19 response

Temporary rules: Effective March 17, 2020, employer groups and associations may also apply for a director’s variance. Employers can apply to the Director to vary:

  • notice requirements for work times
  • hours of work confined
  • break times
  • days of work and rest

There is a different application process for these new temporary variances. Employers do not use the online system but apply via email. The application process and requirements are described further on this page.

For all the other variances (not related to COVID-19), employers use the regular application process.

Three-hour pay minimum

Employers may apply for a variance to provide less than the minimum standard requirement of 3 hours’ pay when calling in an employee.

Basic rules

  • The Employment Standards Code states that employees must be paid for a minimum of 3 hours if they're asked to go to work or attend training, even if it's for a period of less than 3 hours, unless the employee is unable to continue working.
  • An employer may apply for a variance to this rule to pay no less than 30 minutes but no more than 2.5 hours.
  • The Director of Employment Standards issues variances at their discretion.
  • A Director’s Variance may be amended or revoked at any time.
  • Variances (formerly permits) issued before January 1, 2018 expired on January 1, 2019 or on the stated expiry date, whichever occurred first.

COVID-19 response

Temporary rules: effective March 17, 2020, employers, employer groups and associations may apply for a variance for hours of work confined.

Apply for three-hour pay minimum variance

Extend days of work

Employers may apply for a variance to extend the consecutive days of work for employees beyond the maximum of 24 consecutive days.

COVID-19 response

Temporary rules: effective March 17, 2020, employers, employer groups and associations may apply for a variance to days of work and rest.

Basic rules

  • The Employment Standards Code outlines the minimum required days of rest for each work week:
    • One day of rest is required for each consecutive work week, up to 4 weeks.
    • Four consecutive days of rest are required after 24 consecutive work days.
    • See rules for hours of work and rest for more information.
  • An employer may apply for a variance to extend the number of consecutive work days beyond the maximum of 24 if it’s necessary to conduct business.
  • The Director of Employment Standards issues variances at their discretion.
  • A Director’s Variance may be amended or revoked at any time.
  • Variances (formerly permits) issued before January 1, 2018 expired on January 1, 2019 or on the stated expiry date, whichever occurred first.

Apply for Extended days of work variance

Extend hours of work

Employers may apply for a variance to extend the hours of work in a day for employees beyond the maximum of a 12 consecutive hour period.

Basic rules

  • The Employment Standards Code outlines that a day of work for an employee must be confined within a 12 consecutive hour period.
  • An employer may apply for a variance to extend the maximum number of consecutive work hours in a day beyond 12 hours, up to a maximum of 16 hours, if it’s necessary to conduct business.
  • A variance can also apply to extend the maximum daily scheduled hours permitted under hours of work averaging agreements (see below).
  • The Director of Employment Standards issues variances at their discretion.
  • A Director’s Variance may be amended or revoked at any time.
  • Variances (formerly permits) issued before January 1, 2018 expired on January 1, 2019 or on the stated expiry date, whichever occurred first.

COVID-19 response

Temporary rules: effective March 17, 2020, employers, employer groups and associations may apply for a variance for hours of work confined.

Apply for Extended hours of work variance

Notice of work and break times (temporary)

COVID-19 response

Temporary rules: Effective March 17, 2020, employers, employer groups and associations may apply for a variance to notice of work times and break times. A variance would allow a change in the following requirements:

  • providing an 8-hour rest between shifts
  • notifying employees of the time that work starts and ends

Basic rules

See rules for hours of work and rest for notice requirements around work and rest times.

  • The Director of Employment Standards issues variances at their discretion.
  • A Director’s Variance may be amended or revoked at any time.

Varied time for breaks (temporary)

COVID-19 response

Temporary rules: Effective March 17, 2020, employers, employer groups and associations may apply for a variance to the minimum requirement of one 30-minute break or two 15-minute breaks for each 5 consecutive hours worked.

Basic rules

See rules for hours of work and rest for requirements around breaks.

  • The Director of Employment Standards issues variances at their discretion.
  • A Director’s Variance may be amended or revoked at any time.

Extend period of averaging

Employers may apply for a variance to extend the averaging period for Hours of Work Averaging Agreements beyond the maximum 12 weeks.

Basic rules

  • The Employment Standards Code states that Hours of Work Averaging Agreements entered into by employers and employees will average the hours worked over a period of one to 12 weeks.
  • An employer may apply for a variance to this rule to extend the averaging period of an Hours of Work Averaging Agreement up to 26 weeks.
  • This variance is only available for Hours of Work Averaging Agreements. It is not available for Flexible Averaging Agreements.
  • Employers are only eligible to apply for a variance if they have an Hours of Work Averaging Agreement in place, or currently under consideration.
  • The Director of Employment Standards issues variances at their discretion.
  • A Director’s Variance may be amended or revoked at any time.

Apply for an averaging period extension

Variance application process

An employer can request a variance to the minimum standards for one or more employees.

Variance applications will be processed in the order that they are received.

Applicants are encouraged to apply between 4 to 6 weeks in advance of the date for which the Director's variance is required.

An application for a variance must:

  • include the employer's legal name (and operating name if different), address, telephone number and signature of an authorized representative
  • identify the job titles of employees to whom the requested variance would apply
  • specify the provisions of the Code or Regulation for which the variance is requested
  • explain the extent, impact and duration of the requested variance and the rationale for the request
  • provide proof of support for the proposed variance by the affected employees or their bargaining agent
  • address any other requirements specified by the Director of Employment Standards

Before issuing a variance, the Director of Employment Standards shall consider:

  • the employment standards and occupational health and safety compliance history of the employer
  • the rationale for the request
  • whether there is employee support for the variance
  • any effect the variance could have on the safety, health or welfare of the public or the affected employees

The Director of Employment Standards may consider additional criteria, as appropriate, which may include:

  • best industry practices
  • compliance with any other legislative requirements
  • scheduled hours of work and potential implications for existing overtime and averaging agreements (if applicable)

COVID-19 response

Temporary rules: Effective March 17, 2020, the Director is not required to consider these criteria when reviewing applications from employers, employer groups and associations impacted by COVID-19.

Employers must continue to follow minimum standards until they receive notice that their variance has been approved.

How to apply for a variance (temporary)

For temporary variances that came in effect on March 17, 2020 (notice requirements for work times, hours of work confined, break times, and days of work and rest), employers apply to the Director via email.

An application to the Director must:

  • be submitted to the Director in writing by email to: lbr.espermits@gov.ab.ca
  • include the name of the individual employer, employer group, and/or association, address and telephone number
  • identify the legal names of the employers to which the variance or exemption would apply, as reflected in the corporate registry if applicable, the operating names if different, and the corresponding Workers' Compensation Board industry code and account numbers
  • identify the job titles or functions of the employees to whom the requested variance or exemption would apply, or the type of employment to which the order would apply, as the case may be
  • specify the provisions of the Code or Regulation for which the variance or exemption is requested, and the extent and duration of the requested variance or exemption
  • explain the rationale for the request, including factors beyond the control of the individual employer or applicant group that necessitate the proposed variance or exemption

Apply online

Certain criteria must be met and outlined in the application before approval.

  • Use the new online system to apply and submit your application. The PDF that was previously used to apply is no longer available.

After an application is reviewed

The Director of Employment Standards will notify the employer in writing of a decision on a variance application. If the variance is approved, the employer is responsible for notifying the affected employees.

The Director of Employment Standards may amend or revoke the variance at any time.

Publication of variances

See a current list of variances at the Registry of Employment Standards Director’s Variances.

How the law applies

Part 3.1 of the Employment Standards Regulation outlines the variance application process and section 63.3 outlines publication of variances.

Disclaimer: In the event of any discrepancy between this information and Alberta Employment Standards legislation, the legislation is considered correct.