Employment standards rules – Hours of work and rest

Most employees are entitled to breaks, a limit on daily hours and weekly days off.

Certain industries and occupations have special rules and exceptions. See Exceptions for special industries for more information.

Basic rules

  • An employee may work a maximum of 12 hours a day unless an exception occurs.
  • An employee is entitled to one 30-minute paid or unpaid break after the first 5 hours of work for shifts that are between 5 and 10 hours long.
  • For shifts 10 hours or longer, an employee is entitled to two 30-minute breaks.
  • An employee is not entitled to any breaks if their shift is 5 hours or less.
  • If an employer and an employee agree, the break may be taken in 2 periods of at least 15 minutes.
  • Employees are entitled to at least one day of rest each work week.

Daily hours of work

An employee’s work must be confined within a period of 12 consecutive hours per day, unless one of the following occurs:

  • an accident occurs or urgent work is required
  • other unforeseeable or unpreventable circumstances
  • a variance authorizes longer hours

Notice of work times

Employers must notify their employees of the time that work starts and ends. The employer can do this by posting notices where they can be seen by employees, or by other reasonable methods.

Rest between shifts

An employee must not be required to change from one shift to another without at least 24 hours written notice and at least 8 hours rest between shifts.

Daily rest periods (breaks)

Employers must give their employees breaks as follows:

Length of shiftBreaks
5 hours or lessNo break entitlement
More than 5 hours but less than 10 hoursAt least one 30-minute break
10 hours or moreAt least two 30-minute breaks

If an employer and an employee agree, the break may be taken in 2 periods of at least 15 minutes.

If the employer and the employee cannot agree on a break schedule:

  • The employer must provide at least 30 minutes within or immediately following the first 5 hours of the shift (at a time chosen by the employer)
  • For shifts 10 hours or longer, the employer must provide at least 30 minutes within or immediately following the first 5 hours of the shift (at a time chosen by the employer) and a second break of at least 30 minutes after the first 5 hours of the shift.

The exception to break entitlements would be if one of the following occurs:

  • an accident occurs or urgent work is required
  • other unforeseeable or unpreventable circumstances
  • different break arrangements have been made through a collective agreement, or
  • it is not reasonable for the employee to take a rest period; if the employee is unable to take their break, then it must be paid

While this is the minimum standard, employers may provide longer daily rest periods.

Paid vs. unpaid breaks

Breaks can be paid or unpaid at the employer’s discretion. However, if the employer places restrictions on an employee’s activities during a break, such as prohibiting the employee from leaving the premises, the break must be paid.

Days of rest

Employees are entitled to at least 1 day of rest each work week.

Work weeks can be combined so the employee receives the following days of rest:

  • 2 consecutive days of rest in each period of 2 consecutive work weeks
  • 3 consecutive days of rest in each period of 3 consecutive work weeks
  • 4 consecutive days of rest in each period of 4 consecutive work weeks

Every employer must allow each employee at least 4 consecutive days of rest after each period of 24 consecutive work days.

Travel time

Employers are only required to pay employees for travel time that is considered work.

When travel time is work

Any travel time that occurs after the employee starts to provide services is recorded as work hours.

If a collective agreement is in place, provisions in the agreement may determine how travel time is managed.

If not covered by a collective agreement, travel time is considered work when an employee, whether driver or passenger:

  • goes from the employer's business or a place designated by the employer to a work site, or
  • goes from one job site to another job site, or
  • is directed to pick up materials or perform other tasks on the way to work or home

Rate of pay

Travel time hours may be paid out at a different rate of pay, as long as the employee is informed ahead of time and the rate is at least minimum wage.

When travel time is not work

In general, home-to-work and work-to-home travel is not considered time spent working. If the employer chooses to pay the employee for this travel time, the payment would not generally be considered wages.

Travel time is not considered work when employees are given the choice, or an agreement between the employer and employee or union is in place, to:

  • provide their own transportation to or from the work location, or
  • report to a certain point from which the employee may access transportation provided by the employer

Employees attending a compulsory meeting or scheduled training session

If the meeting or training occurs on an employee’s regularly scheduled day off, the employee must be paid at least the minimum wage and overtime if applicable. If the meeting or training is less than 3 hours in length, the 3-hour minimum rule applies.


  • if an employee returns to work to attend the meeting or training after completing their shift, the employee must be paid the wages agreed to or overtime if applicable, whichever is greater
  • the rate of pay for meetings or training cannot be less than the minimum wage
  • the pay received by the employee must equal or exceed the amount described in the section on minimum compensation for short periods of work
  • if the meeting or training is not compulsory but is directly related to the employee’s work, and the employee attends, they must be paid the wages agreed to, and overtime if applicable; the employee must receive at least the minimum compensation as described above

Employees ‘on call’ or ‘on standby’ at home

  • If an employee is not required to perform work at home, no payment is required. Being ‘on call’ or ‘on standby’ is not considered work.
  • If an employee is required to perform work, the employee is entitled to the 3-hour pay minimum for each period worked.

Employees asked to work for short periods

Unless an employer has a variance, the following minimum standards apply:

3-hour minimum

Employees must be paid for at least 3 hours of pay at the minimum wage each time they are required to report to work, come to work for short periods, or are sent home early by the employer. The 3-hour minimum applies as long as the decision to leave work early comes from the employer.

This 3-hour minimum does not apply if the decision to leave work early is an employee decision and the employee does not make themselves available to work the full 3 hours. This applies to illness or any other reason the employee leaves work early.

If an employee works for fewer than 3 consecutive hours, the employer must pay whichever works out to be more:

  • the employee’s hourly wage multiplied by the time actually worked, or
  • 3 hours at a rate of at least minimum wage

2-hour minimum

The following employees must be paid minimum compensation for at least 2 hours at not less than minimum wage (or Job Creation Student Wage for students under 18):

  • school bus drivers
  • part-time employees of non-profit recreation or athletic programs run by a municipality, Metis Settlement or community service organization
  • home care employees
  • 13-, 14- and 15-year-olds who work on a school day

Employees working split shifts

If an employee is required to work a split shift and there is more than a 1-hour break between the 2 segments of the shift, the employee must be paid the minimum compensation required for each segment of their shift.

See Youth employment for more information.

Exempt occupations

The following jobs are exempt from the minimum standards for hours of work and rest:

  • managers, supervisors and those employed in a confidential capacity
  • farm and ranch workers exempt from daily and weekly hours of work and rest; monthly days of rest requirements apply
  • mobile workover or completion service drilling operations employees
  • roadbuilding or heavy construction operations employees
  • oil and gas continuous operations employees
  • municipal police service members
  • lookout observers
  • post-secondary academic staff
  • professionals, including agrologists, architects, certified or chartered accountants, chiropractors, dentists, denturists, engineers, geoscientists, information systems professionals, lawyers, optometrists, podiatrists, psychologists and veterinarians
  • salespersons of automobiles, trucks, buses, farm machinery, road construction equipment, heavy duty equipment, manufactured homes or residential homes
  • salespersons who solicit orders, principally outside of the employer’s place of business, who are fully or partly paid by commission; this does not apply to route salespersons.
  • licensed salespersons of real estate and securities
  • licensed insurance salespersons who are paid entirely by commission income
  • salespersons who are at least 16 years old and are engaged in direct selling for licensed direct sellers.
  • licensed land agents
  • extras in a film or video production
  • counsellors or instructors at a non-profit educational or recreational camp for children, handicapped individuals, or religious groups
  • domestic employees (these employees are exempt only from sections 16 and 17 of the Code concerning hours of work and notice of work times, but not from rest periods).
  • residential and homecare caregivers; employees are exempt only from section 16 of the Code concerning hours of work, but not from rest periods.

How the law applies

Part 2, Division 3 of the Employment Standards Code makes provisions for employees’ hours of work, rests periods, days of rest and notice of work times.

Disclaimer: In the event of any discrepancy between this information and Alberta Employment Standards legislation, the legislation is considered correct.