Hours of work and rest

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

The legislation on this page is now in effect

For information on Employment Standards legislation that was in force until December 31, 2017, go to https://work.alberta.ca/employment-standards/hours-of-work-and-rest-2017.html

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.
  • Employees are entitled to at least 30 minutes of rest (break) during every 5-hour work period. 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)

An employee is entitled to at least 30 minutes of rest–paid or unpaid–in each shift that is 5 consecutive hours of work, unless 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’s 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.

Length of shifts

  • less than 5 hours: employer doesn’t have to provide a break
  • 5 hours or longer: employer must provide at least 30 minutes of break every 5 hours. The 30 minutes of break can be taken in one unbroken period or, two 15-minute periods.

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’s 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 isn’t considered time spent working. If the employer pays 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.

Please also note:

  • 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 isn’t 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 isn’t 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 work at home, the employee must be paid for hours worked at their regular rate of pay, plus applicable overtime, for the actual time worked
  • if the employee is required to leave home and report to the worksite, the minimum compensation for short periods of work as previously described is applicable once the employee reports to work

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’re required to report to work, or come to work for short periods. This 3-hour minimum doesn’t apply if the employee isn’t available to work the full 3 hours.

If an employee works for fewer than 3 consecutive hours, the employer must pay wages that are at least equal to 3 hours at the minimum wage.

If an employee’s regular wage is greater than the minimum wage, the employer may pay them for less than 3 hours of work at this higher rate.

2-hour minimum

The following employees must be paid minimum compensation for at least 2 hours at not less than minimum wage:

  • school bus drivers
  • part-time employees of non-profit recreation or athletic programs run by a municipality, Métis 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’s 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
  • municipal police service members
  • 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 doesn’t 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.

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