Employment standards: Farm and ranch legislation

The government has consulted with farmers and ranchers to develop employment standards that reflect the unique aspects of the industry.


Employment standards legislation sets minimum standards for hours of work, overtime, overtime pay, holidays and general holiday pay, vacations, vacation pay, minimum wage and employees under the age of 18.

Farmers and ranchers have been consulted through technical working groups to help government understand the unique aspects of the industry that need to be accommodated.

Proposed amendments to the Employment Standards Code that apply to the agricultural sector were included in Bill 17: Fair and Family-Friendly Workplaces Act, that was introduced on May 24, 2017. The Bill was passed June 5 and received Royal Assent June 7, 2017. Changes that affect farms and ranches will come into effect on January 1, 2018.

Other industries in Alberta have exemptions or rules that vary from the standards set by the Employment Standards Code.

Who’s affected

Employment standards rules will only apply to workplaces with waged, non-family employees. Farm families and those with friends, families and neighbours helping out will not be affected.

While there are special rules for the employment of youth to protect their well-being and education, children doing chores on the farm or helping out around the home are not considered to be in an employment relationship or performing “work”. Changes to youth employment rules 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.

Note: Alberta Labour will consult with the agricultural industry to modernize the list of allowable ‘light work’ jobs for youth under 16, as well as the list of ‘hazardous work’ jobs that 16 and 17-year-olds will be allowed to do with a permit, proper training and supervision.

Changes coming January 1, 2018

With few exceptions, the government accepted the recommendations from Technical Working Groups 1 and 2, which provided direction on employment standards and labour relations.

Technical Working Group Recommendations Government's Response
Exempt family members from all employment standards, including those which previously applied. Bill 17, the Fair and Family-friendly Workplaces Act, exempts family members from all employment standards provisions.

Family member to be defined as in the Enhanced Protection for Farm and Ranch Workers Act amendment.

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;

The Enhanced Protection for Farm and Ranch Workers Act amendment definition was included in the Fair and Family-Friendly Worplaces Act.

Minimum wage to apply to non-family, waged employees. Government has accepted this recommendation. No changes were required to the Employment Standards Code to enact.
Non-family, waged farm employees to be exempted from overtime. Non-family, waged farm employees are exempted from overtime requirements.
Exempt non-family, waged farm employees from standards around hours of work and breaks. Non-family, waged farm employees are exempted from standards around hours of work and breaks.
Non-family waged employees are given four days off every 28 days with the employer deciding on which four days at their convenience and within reason. This recommendation was included in amendments to the Employment Standards Regulation. The Regulation will be effective January 1, 2018.
Standards that previously applied (payment of wages, records, termination notice and pay, leaves, and administration and enforcement) to all non-family, waged farm workers continue to apply only to waged, non-family workers. The exemption for family members extends to standards that previously applied.
Government to explore options around job-protected leaves with the purpose of easing the burden and impacts on small businesses in the agriculture sector. The government will work with stakeholders, focusing on education and awareness.
An appropriate amount of time should be provided to phase-in any changes so that the agricultural industry has enough time to adjust. The recommendation is that a phase in period of at least one year (which is one growing season) be given to allow farm operations to adapt their operations to any employment standards changes. Standards will apply as of January 1, 2018. In the meantime, government will work with stakeholders on education, awareness and training about the changes.
Education sessions should be conducted to inform the agriculture industry of any upcoming changes. The Ministry of Labour will offer information and education sessions to the agricultural community.
Vacation and vacation pay to apply with vacation pay based upon a maximum of 44 hours work per week. Vacation pay will be calculated on total wages.

General holidays and general holiday pay to apply with employer deciding between:

  • a day off in lieu and straight time for work on general holiday;
  • 3.6% of wages as general holiday pay up to a maximum of wages for 44 hours of work per week; and
  • existing provisions in the Code.

In case of general holidays, the employer provides either:

  • day off in lieu and straight time for work on general holiday, or
  • general holiday pay calculated at a 4.2% of the four weeks wages prior to the general holiday”

Individuals below 18 years of age:

  • For youths below 16 years of age: work must have no negative impact on schooling, parental consent must be obtained by employers, and the work must not be detrimental to health, education or welfare.
  •  For youths 12-13 years of age there should be 20 hours of work per week limit all year round.

The TWG also identified that the director approval requirement (currently required for 12-14 year olds) would not work for farms.

These provisions will be delayed while the government consults with stakeholders, including the agricultural community, on defining “light work” for young people, and determining what is hazardous work that requires a higher level of supervision and training.
Consider greenhouses, mushroom farms, nurseries and sod farms to be within the definition of ‘farms and ranches’ as per the Employment Standards Code. These operations will not be considered farms, however government will work with the stakeholders in this sector to identify particular issues within Employment Standards and consult with them to find a reasonable accommodation to those concerns.

Source: Alberta Labour