Hours of work and rest

Most employees are entitled to breaks, a limit on daily hours and weekly days off. These standards come into effect on January 1, 2018.

The legislation on this page comes into effect on January 1, 2018

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

Additional information on exemptions or special rules for certain industries will be available by January 1, 2018.

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. For more information see below under Weekly rest periods.

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.

Weekly rest periods

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. This includes:

  • travelling between 2 job locations during work hours
  • when the employee 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 isn’t considered work when:

  • employees are given the choice to provide their own transportation to or from the work location, or
  • employees report to a certain point from which they may take a company-provided bus or receive a ride with the employer

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.