Learn the new rules
Alberta's new Employment Standards Code came into effect Jan. 1, 2018. Products and services are available to help employers and employees learn the new rules:
- new website and printable fact sheets
- frequently asked questions (PDF, 236 KB)
- instructional videos
- free live webinars
- posters available for print, download or pre-order
- revised toolkit for employers
- updated online self-assessment compliance tool for employers
- brochures, including Hospitality (PDF, 170 KB). Construction (PDF, 216 KB), Retail (PDF, 221 KB) and General Employment Standards (PDF, 170 KB). Youth brochure coming soon.
Employer groups, non-profit organizations and worker representatives are encouraged to sign up for an available webinar.
Alberta’s Employment Standards Code provides minimum standards of employment that apply to the majority of employers and employees in the province, with the exception of those working in federally regulated industries. The Code applies to approximately 85% of all employment relationships in Alberta.
Alberta’s workplaces have evolved since the Employment Standards Code was last updated in 1988, including growth in part-time jobs, shift work and flexible schedules.
Following input from stakeholders and nearly 5,000 online survey responses, a series of changes to the Code have been passed to support family-friendly workplaces, modernize decades-old legislation, and align the minimum employment standards with the rest of Canada.
Changes to existing laws
The Fair and Family-friendly Workplaces Act (Amendments to the Employment Standards Code, June 2017)
Complete amended Employment Standards Code – effective January 1, 2018
Complete amended Employment Standards Regulation – effective January 1, 2018
- Employees are eligible for current (excluding reservists leave) and new leaves after 90 days, rather than 1 year.
Compassionate care leave
- Unpaid job protection has been extended to 27 weeks, from the current 8 weeks, to better align with federal Employment Insurance benefits.
- Caregiver status has been expanded to include non-primary caregivers.
- Leave is available for multiple weekly installments within the period outlined in the medical certificate, rather than the current limit of 2 installments.
- Notice to an employer has been kept at 2 weeks, however language indicating that leave can be taken as soon as reasonable will be added.
- Notice to an employer of the employee’s planned date of return to work has been reduced to one week from two weeks.
- End date for compassionate care leave can be either the last day of the work week in which the family member dies or the employee ceases to provide care, or the end of the 27 week period (whichever is earlier).
- These changes align the allowable leave with federal Employment Insurance guidelines.
- Unpaid job protection for maternity leave has been extended from 15 to 16 weeks to account for the one-week waiting time for federal Employment Insurance benefits.
- Unpaid job protection for parental leave has been extended to 62 weeks.
- Legislation for the following has been modified such that:
- an employee may be terminated during the notice/entitlement period ONLY for situations where the business is closed or suspended
- leave will not apply if pregnancy terminates more than 16 weeks before due date
- an employee whose pregnancy terminates within 16 weeks of the due date will still be eligible for maternity leave; leave will end either 16 weeks after the leave began or 6 weeks after the pregnancy is terminated
- Employees are entitled to a minimum of a 30-minute break (paid or unpaid) within every 5 hours of consecutive employment. If agreed to by the employer and employees, breaks can be taken in two, 15-minute installments.
Compressed work weeks
- This type of work arrangement has been renamed as “Averaging Agreements.” All such agreements require support of the majority of affected employees, or be contained within a union collective agreement.
- Employers and employees can be allowed to agree to average work hours over a period of one to 12 weeks for the purpose of determining overtime eligibility. Work weeks can also be compressed as part of these agreements.
- Employers that require longer cycles may apply for a permit.
- The Code has been clarified to indicate which deductions will be allowed from wages, as well as explicitly prohibiting deductions for faulty work and cash shortages (i.e. dine-and-dash and gas-and-dash scenarios).
- All Albertans deserve to make a living wage. Employers will no longer be allowed to pay employees with disabilities less than the minimum wage. Permits that formerly allowed employers to pay employees with disabilities less than the minimum wage are no longer available.
- Overtime agreements can allow time to be banked for 6 months rather than 3.
- Overtime banking must be calculated at 1.5x for all overtime hours worked, rather than hour-for-hour.
General holiday and general holiday pay
- The requirement to have worked for 30 days in the 12 months before the holiday has been removed. The distinction between regular and non-regular days of work has been eliminated.
- General Holiday pay must calculated as 5% of wages, general holiday pay, and vacation pay earned in the 4 weeks immediately preceding the holiday.
Vacations and vacation pay
- The Code has been clarified to indicate that employees must be paid 4% or 2 weeks of their total wages as vacation pay until they have been employed for 5 years, after which they must receive at least 6%.
- Half-day vacation increments are now allowed, up from a minimum of one day.
Termination and temporary layoffs
- Rules regarding termination notice have been clarified.
- Employers are prohibited from forcing employees to use entitlements such as vacation or overtime during a termination notice period, unless agreed to by both.
- Requirements for providing termination notice to large groups of employees, unions and the Minister of Labour have been increased and scaled:
- 50–100 employees: 8 weeks
- 101–300 employees: 12 weeks
- 301+ employees: 16 weeks
- The possibility of an indefinite temporary layoff has been eliminated by requiring layoffs be limited to 60 days within a 120-day period. Layoffs can be extended if wages and/or benefits are paid and the employee agrees.
- Written notice of a temporary layoff to an employee is required. Notice must contain effective date and outline applicable provisions of the Code.
- Waiver of the notice requirement for unforeseen circumstances beyond an employer’s control is allowed.
- Recall notices from temporary layoffs must required to be written.
- Termination pay is now calculated based on the previous 13 weeks of employment when the employee actually worked, not simply the calendar weeks preceding the termination.
Note: These standards are not in effect. See the employment standards for employees under 18 for current youth employment rules.
- With the exception of artistic endeavours, youth age 12 and under will not be allowed to work as employees. (Youth age 12 and under will be allowed to be employed in artistic endeavours such as a theatre production with a permit.)
- Youth aged 13-15 will only be allowed to work in jobs on the ‘light work’ list.
- The Ministry will consult with employers and other stakeholders to modernize the list of allowable ‘light work’ jobs for youth under the age of 16 to include, for example, accommodation and food service tasks such as setting tables, golf caddying or working in a pro shop and tutoring, etc. The list will then be reviewed and updated every 3 years. Employment in a job that is not on the list will require a permit in advance.
- Youth aged 15 years and under will not be allowed to work from 12:01 am to 6 am.
- Youth under 16 will be prohibited from jobs deemed to include hazardous work.
- The Ministry will be consulting with stakeholders to create a definition of hazardous work.
- 16 and 17-year-olds will be allowed to do hazardous work only with a permit, and with proper training and supervision.
Note: No changes are being made immediately. These changes will come into effect after the Ministry finishes consultations on the list of light work jobs and the definition of hazardous work. Upcoming changes will have no effect on youth activities such as 4-H, or branding parties, and won’t stop friends and neighbours from helping each other as they have done for generations.
Additions to existing laws
The following has been added to the Employment Standards Code. They are designed to protect Alberta workers and align with current trends across the country.
All of the following job-protected leaves are unpaid.
- Eligibility – Employees are eligible for current (excluding reservists leave) and new leaves after 90 days, rather than one year.
- Personal and Family Responsibility Leave – A new unpaid leave provides up to 5 days of job protection per year for personal sickness or short-term care of an immediate family member. Includes attending to personal emergencies and caregiving responsibilities related to education of a child.
- Long-Term Illness and Injury Leave – A new unpaid leave provides up to 16 weeks of job protection per year for long-term personal sickness or injury. Medical certificate and reasonable notice will be required. This aligns with the federal Employment Insurance program.
- Bereavement Leave – A new unpaid leave provides up to 3 days of job protection per year for bereavement of an immediate family member.
- Domestic Violence Leave – A new unpaid leave provides up to 10 days of job protection per year for employees addressing a situation of domestic violence.
- Citizenship Ceremony Leave – A new unpaid leave provides up to a half-day of job protection for employees attending a citizenship ceremony.
- Critical Illness of an Adult Family Member – A new unpaid leave provides up to 16 weeks of job protection for employees who take time off to care for an ill or injured adult family member. This will align with the federal Employment Insurance program.
- Critical Illness of a Child – A new unpaid leave provides up to 36 weeks of job protection for parents of critically ill or injured children. This aligns with the federal Employment Insurance program.
- Death or disappearance of a Child – A new unpaid leave provides up to 52 weeks of job protection for employees whose child disappeared as a result of a crime, or up to 104 weeks if a child died as a result of a crime. This aligns with the federal Employment Insurance program.
Enforcement and administration
- A new administrative penalty system will be implemented for employers found to be in contravention of the Code. Details of the system are being developed and will be made public later this year.
- The time period to commence prosecution has been increased from one to 2 years.
- The permitting process has been streamlined by setting clear and enforceable criteria and setting time limits on permits or variances. Criteria for permits or variances has been published in regulation or policy.
- Permits previously granted to employer associations, or that allowed industry-wide exceptions, will be eliminated and replaced with regulations over time. This will enable a transparent process that will allow for industry to create rules within regulations that are unique to its sector’s needs.
- Employment Standards Officers have been given the authority to direct employers to conduct self-audits in a form prescribed by the Ministry.
- Clarifications to the Code have been added that establish time periods for the recovery of earnings that are not dependent on when the order was issued, and to allow orders to capture a broader range of entitlements.
- Changes have been made to allow the Labour Relations Board to hear employment standards appeals.
How farms and ranches will be affected
For family members
Family members are exempt from all Employment Standards Code provisions.
Definition: "family member", in relation to a shareholder, sole proprietor or partner, means:
- the spouse or adult interdependent partner of the shareholder, sole proprietor or partner, or
- whether by blood, marriage or adoption or by virtue of an adult interdependent relationship, a child, parent, grandparent, sibling, aunt, uncle, niece, nephew or first cousin of the shareholder, sole proprietor or partner or of the shareholder’s, sole proprietor’s or partner’s spouse or adult interdependent partner, and includes any other person prescribed by the regulations to be a family member.
For waged, non-family employees
- Children 12 and under are prohibited from employment, except for artistic endeavors approved by permit from Employment Standards. Youth aged 13-15 will be allowed to do light work only and no hazardous jobs. (Alberta Labour will update the list of allowable light work jobs and create a definition for hazardous work.) Jobs not on the list will require a permit. Youth 16-17 will be allowed to do hazardous work with a permit, proper training and supervision.
- General Holiday Pay is based on 4.2% of the previous 4 weeks’ wages.
- Vacation and vacation pay entitlements under the Code apply. Employees are entitled to 2 weeks’ vacation per year after one year, and 3 weeks’ vacation per year after working five years. Vacation pay is calculated on total wages.
- Four days of rest must be provided for every 28 days at the employer’s discretion, if the employer and employee can’t agree on dates.
- Existing employment standards apply, including:
- Minimum wage of $15/hr
- Unpaid, job-protected leaves including:
- maternity leave (16 weeks)
- parental leave (62 weeks)
- reservist leave (as needed)
- compassionate care leave (27 weeks)
- bereavement leave (three days)
- domestic violence leave (10 days)
- citizenship ceremony leave (half day)
- critical illness of a child leave (36 weeks)
- critical illness of an adult family member (16 weeks)
- long-term illness and injury leave (16 weeks)
- personal and family responsibility leave (five days)
- disappearance/death of a child leave (52/104 weeks)
- Standards on payment of earnings, employment records
- Standards on individual and group termination notice and termination pay (sliding scale of 0-13 weeks’ notice/pay based on length of service)
- Standards on administration and enforcement (e.g. permitting process, complaints, appeals).
- Vacations and vacation pay (two weeks’ vacation after one year, three weeks after five years, plus either 4% (up to fifth year of employment) or 6% vacation pay (after five years’ employment)
- Greenhouses, nurseries, mushroom and sod farms: these operations are not considered farms under the Employment Standards Code, however government will consult with the industry as to whether special rules are required regarding the application of employment standards.
Note: Only those farms and ranches with paid employees who are not the owner or related to the owner will be affected by this legislation. Unpaid farm and ranch workers, such as relatives, friends and neighbours helping out, will not be affected. Children doing chores or participating in activities such as 4-H, helping neighbours and friends, as well as recreational activities such as hunting on farmland, will also not be affected.
Frequently asked questions
List of frequently asked questions (PDF, 5 pages, 215 KB)