- Family members, volunteers, and workers on small farms are exempt from all employment standards.
- The rules around hours of work, breaks, overtime and overtime pay do not apply to any farm and ranch workers.
- The rules around minimum wage, payment of wages, record-keeping (pay stubs), termination notice and pay, job-protected leaves and administration and enforcement apply to all waged, non-family employees except for employees who work on small farms and ranches.
- Employees working in greenhouses, mushroom farms, nurseries or sod farms are considered “farm and ranch” employees and are covered by farm and ranch rules.
- Producing cannabis in a greenhouse is not a farm and ranch operation and is covered by all employment standards.
- Producing cannabis on an open farm or nursery, is considered a farm and ranch operation. Farm and ranch rules apply.
- Alberta’s youth employment rules don’t apply to farms and ranches. Youth who are not family members follow the same rules as other farm and ranch employees.
List of exempt individuals
The following people are exempt from the rules in the Employment Standards Code:
- unpaid farm and ranch workers, such as relatives, friends and neighbours helping out
- the owner and family members of the owner
- all employees of small farms and ranches
Owner means a shareholder, sole proprietor or partner
All of the following are considered family members of the owner and owner’s spouse (married, common-law partner or adult-interdependent partner):
- spouse (married), common-law partner, or adult-interdependent partner
- children, step-children, their spouse
- parent, step-parent, their spouse
- sibling, half-sibling, step-sibling, their spouse
- grandparent, step-grandparent, their spouse
- aunt, uncle, step-aunt or step-uncle, their spouse
- niece, nephew, their spouse
- first cousin, their spouse
A “long-term employee” is a worker who has been employed with the farm for 6 consecutive months or longer. For example, if an employee started work on March 1, 2019, they will become a long-term employee on September 1, 2019.
- The 6-month count includes any job-protected leaves authorized by the employer.
- Temporary lay-offs that are not termination are included in the 6-month count.
A farm is only considered a small farm when it has 5 or fewer waged, non-family, long-term employees. On the day that the 6th employee has been employed for 6 months, the farm stops being a small farm, and employment standards apply to all waged, non-family employees.
If employees leave their employment, are terminated, or their contracts expire, the farm will go back to the small farm rules immediately, on the day that the operation has 5 or fewer long-term employees. Once the operation is a small farm, all workers are exempt from all employment standards.
To determine if an operation is a small farm, count the number of the waged, non-family, long-term employees. If it is 5 or fewer, the farm is considered a small farm, regardless of how many other employees are working there. The number of family members, seasonal employees, and short-term workers is not included in the count.
Employment standards apply or do not apply to the entire farm, not to individual workers. If an operation is a small farm, all employees are exempt from employment standards. If an operation is not a small farm, all waged, non-family employees are covered by employment standards. This includes short-term employees.
Rules if it’s not a small farm
Employment standards rules apply to farming and ranching employees who receive wages, are not family members, and do not work on small farms and ranches. These employees:
- are exempt from rules around daily and weekly hours of work and rest
- must be given 4 days off within every 28 days
- are exempt from rules around breaks during shifts
- are exempt from overtime requirements
- are entitled to rules regarding minimum wage
- are entitled to job-protected leaves
- have their vacation pay calculated based on their total wages
- are entitled to termination pay and notice in most cases
- must be given holiday benefits
All waged, non-family, farm and ranch employees who do not work on small farms and ranches are subject to and protected by the normal rules about payment of wages, record-keeping (pay stubs), vacation pay, and administration and enforcement of employment standards.
Days of rest
Employers must provide employees with at least 4 days of rest within every 28 days.
General holiday pay
An employee is entitled to general holiday pay if they have worked for the same employer for at least 30 workdays in the 12 months prior to the holiday.
For eligible employees, general holiday pay varies depending on whether the employee works on the holiday or not.
Not working on a general holiday
If an employee does not work on a general holiday, the employer must:
- pay the employee general holiday pay of an amount that is at least 4.2% of the employee’s wages, vacation pay and general holiday pay earned in the 4 weeks immediately preceding the general holiday
Working on a general holiday
If an employee works on a general holiday, the employer must pay an amount that is at least equal to the employee's wage for each hour of work on the general holiday and either:
- pay general holiday pay for the day of an amount that is at least 4.2% of the employee’s wages, vacation pay and general holiday pay earned in the 4 weeks immediately preceding the general holiday, or
- provide one day’s holiday on a day that would normally be a work day for the employee, to be taken within 30 days of the general holiday or at a later time agreed to, in writing, by the employer and employee, and pay the employee an amount that is at least equal to 4.2% of their wages, vacation pay and general holiday pay earned in the 4 weeks immediately preceding the general holiday
See General holidays for more information.
Youth workers on farms and ranches
Alberta’s youth employment rules don’t apply to farms and ranches. Youth who are not family members follow the same rules as other farm and ranch employees.
How the law applies
Part 1, section 2.1 of the Employment Standards Code and section 43.8-43.84 of the Regulation sets out the exceptions to the rules for farm and ranch employees.
Disclaimer: In the event of any discrepancy between this information and Alberta Employment Standards legislation, the legislation is considered correct.