Table of contents

Basic rules

  • Family members, volunteers, and farm and ranch 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, farm and ranch employees except for employees who work on small 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.

Farm and ranch employees

A farm and ranch employee is someone who is employed in the primary production of:

  • eggs
  • milk
  • grain
  • seeds
  • fruit or vegetables
  • mushrooms
  • honey or bees
  • livestock or poultry
  • cultured fish, as defined by Fisheries (Alberta) Act
  • trees, shrubs or plants (nurseries)
  • sod

This includes production of any of these products in greenhouses and nurseries.

Cannabis production

Employees working in the production of cannabis on an open farm or nursery are considered farm and ranch employees.

Employees working in the production of cannabis in a greenhouse are not considered farm and ranch employees and are covered by all regular employment standards rules.

Other employees

Employees doing work other than primary production are not considered farm and ranch employees. These employees are covered by all regular employment standards rules.

This includes:

  • bookkeepers
  • administrative staff
  • employees producing any product not listed above

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 farm and ranch employees of small farms and ranches

Definitions

Owners

Owner means a shareholder, sole proprietor or partner

Family members

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

Long-term employee

A “long-term employee” is a farm and ranch 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.

Small farms

A farm is only considered a small farm when it has 5 or fewer waged, non-family, long-term farm and ranch employees. On the day that the 6th farm and ranch employee has been employed for 6 months, the farm stops being a small farm, and employment standards apply to all waged, non-family farm and ranch employees.

If farm and ranch 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 farm and ranch employees. Once the operation is a small farm, all farm and ranch workers are exempt from all employment standards.

Only farm and ranch employees working in primary production are counted in determining if a farm is a small farm. Employees who do other work on a farm are not counted.

To determine if an operation is a small farm, count the number of the waged, non-family, long-term farm and ranch 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, short-term workers, and workers not involved in primary production is not included in the count.

Employment standards apply or do not apply to all farm and ranch employees on a farm. If an operation is a small farm, all farm and ranch employees are exempt from employment standards. If an operation is not a small farm, all waged, non-family, farm and ranch employees are covered by farm and ranch rules for employment standards. This includes short-term farm and ranch employees.

Employees who are not farm and ranch employees are covered by all regular employment standards rules. This applies to work on a small farm or a large farm.

If it’s not a small farm

Farm and ranch 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 covered by regular employment standards rules about payment of wages, record-keeping (pay stubs), vacation pay, and administration and enforcement of employment standards.

Days of rest

Employers must provide farm and ranch 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 a farm and ranch 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 a farm and ranch 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.

Employees who are not involved in primary production

Employees who are not farm and ranch employees are covered by all regular employment standards rules.

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.

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