Farm and Ranch workplace legislation

Workplace legislation regarding waged, non-family farm workers.

Overview

The Enhanced Protection for Farm and Ranch Workers Act was passed in Alberta’s Legislature on December 10, 2015. Changes in the Act regarding Workers Compensation and Occupational Health and Safety came into effect on January 1, 2016. The new rules only apply to farm and ranch operations that employ paid workers. They don’t apply to owners or family members of owners.

The Fair and Family-friendly Workplaces Act was passed on June 5, 2017. This legislation changed provisions for employment standards and labour relations for waged, non-family farm and ranch workers.

What changed on January 1, 2016

Key changes came into effect for farms and ranches employing waged, non-family individuals:

  • Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB) insurance coverage is required for paid workers. These workers are covered under WCB as of January 1, 2016. Employers had until April 30, 2016 to register with WCB. They also had the option to purchase insurance to cover family members and unpaid workers.
  • Occupational Health & Safety (OHS) basic safety standards will apply to paid workers while they're onsite:
    • employers must take reasonable steps to provide a safe and healthy workplace
    • workers will be able to refuse unsafe work that presents an imminent danger
    • OHS will be able to investigate serious injuries and fatalities

Farmers, ranchers and other stakeholders will then be consulted on the following:

  • Detailed OHS technical standards specific to the farm and ranch industry will be developed or amended over the next 18 months.

Who’s affected

Alberta farm and ranch producers with paid employees who are not the owner or related to the owner will be affected by the legislation.

This means that family members can continue to contribute to farming operations as they always have, and neighbours can still volunteer to help each other out.

Who’s not affected

  • Farm families who do not have any waged workers
  • Unpaid farm and ranch workers, such as relatives, friends and neighbours helping out on the family farm
  • Children doing chores or participating in 4-H

The Act also doesn't apply to recreational activities, such as hunting on farmland.

Why changes are needed

The Government created the Enhanced Protection for Farm and Ranch Workers Act to bring the protection and compensation of non-family farm and ranch employees in line with what's already extended to other employees and similar to what's in place in other provinces, where family farms continue to thrive.

Legislation can make a difference. Since laws to protect farm and ranch employees were introduced in British Columbia, the farm fatality rate was reduced by 68%, the farm injury rate was reduced by 52%, and the serious injury rate was reduced by 41%. We can make workplaces safer.

We’re working with farmers, ranchers and industry representatives to ensure we find the right balance between safety and the unique needs of the farm and ranch industry.

Recent developments

  • The government set up 6 Technical Working Groups in 2016 to review the application of workplace legislation to the agricultural industry. Farmers and ranchers, including family farmers, were consulted with to develop detailed regulations that reflect the unique aspects of the industry. Regulations in other provinces where similar laws already exist were also reviewed.
  • Technical Working Groups 1 and 2 reviewing employment standards and labour relations provided reports with recommendations to government in early 2017.
  • These recommendations were then posted online and public input was sought. Between March 6 and April 3, 2017, approximately 200 public responses were submitted. The recommendations and feedback received from Albertans was considered as government developed the Act.
  • Proposed changes to the Employment Standards and Labour Relations Codes relating to the agricultural sector were developed after consultations with industry and the general public. Amendments to both Codes were included as part of the Fair and Family-Friendly Workplaces Act, which was tabled in the Alberta Legislature on May 24, 2017. The Act passed on June 5 and given Royal Assent on June 7, 2017. Changes that affect farms and ranches will come into effect on January 1, 2018, with the exception of the availability of Public Emergency Tribunals for the agricultural industry, which came into effect June 7, 2017.

News

Workplace legislation changes (May 24, 2017)

Help shape farm and ranch labour legislation (Mar 6, 2017)

Working Groups selected for farm and ranch consultations (May 20, 2016)

Amendments confirm farm and ranch families will be excluded from new rules (Dec 7, 2015)

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