Changes due to COVID-19

Special new federal support programs have been announced to assist Canadians during the current crisis. Temporary changes have also been made to several Employment Standards rules regarding leaves.

Temporary workplace rules are now in place to help employers and employees manage rapidly changing conditions. These changes will be in place as long as government determines they are no longer needed and the public health emergency order remains.

We are:

  • creating a job-protected leave for employees caring for children affected by school and daycare closures or ill or self-isolated family members due to COVID-19
    • The 90-day employment requirement is waived.
    • The leave length is flexible and linked to guidance from the Chief Medical Officer.
    • A medical note is not required.
    • Regular personal and family responsibility leave rules continue to apply for all other circumstances.
  • removing the 24-hour written notice requirement for shift changes
  • removing the requirement for 2 weeks notice for changes to work schedules for those under an averaging agreement
  • removing the employer requirement to provide group termination notice to employees and unions when 50 or more employees are being terminated
    • Individual termination entitlements remain in effect.
    • Employers must still give group termination notices to the Minister of Labour and Immigration as soon as is practical.
  • increasing the maximum time for temporary layoffs from 60 days to 120 days
    • This change is retroactive for temporary layoffs related to COVID-19 that occurred on or after March 17
  • streamlining approvals for modifying employment standards (variances and exemptions) related to COVID-19

For more information, visit COVID-19 support for employers and employees.

Basic rules

The employer must give the employee notice of temporary layoff. To be valid, the notice must:

  • be in writing
  • state that it’s a temporary layoff notice and its effective date
  • include sections 62-64 of the Code

The following notice must be provided unless there is a collective agreement that states otherwise, or there are unforeseeable circumstances:

  • at least one week prior to the date layoff begins if the employee has been employed by the employer for less than 2 years
  • at least 2 weeks prior to the date layoff begins if the employee has been employed by the employer for 2 or more years
  • if there are unforeseeable circumstances (such as COVID-19), employers are required to provide as much notice as possible given the circumstances

Employee eligibility

  • All employees who are temporarily laid off are entitled to proper notice. The timing of the notice may vary if unforeseeable circumstances occur (such as COVID-19).

Lack of proper notice

If proper notice of temporary layoff is not given, the employee may have been unjustly or constructively dismissed. Some courts have also held that while the Code permits an employer to temporarily lay off an employee in the absence of a collective agreement or contract allowing layoff, the employee maintains the right to sue for constructive or wrongful dismissal if laid off in those circumstances.

Length of temporary layoff

In Alberta, the maximum duration of a temporary layoff is 60 total days within a 120-day period.

On the 61st day of a temporary layoff, the employee’s employment is considered to be ended, and the employer must pay termination pay.

The period of temporary layoff can be extended beyond 60 days if the employer makes regular payment to or on behalf of the employee, such as continuing to pay wages, employee pensions or benefits and the employee agrees to these payments in lieu of a firm limit of the length of the layoff. Termination pay is payable when payments in lieu cease.

Recall of employee during temporary layoff

If a collective agreement contains recall rights following layoff, the employment ends and termination pay is owed when recall rights expire.

School employees and school bus drivers

The 60-day rule does not apply to school employees and school bus drivers if they work until the end of one school year and continue to work, or have the opportunity to work for, the same employer at the beginning of the next school year.

How the law applies

Part 2, Division 8 of the Employment Standards Code provides the process required to terminate employment relationships, entitlements to termination notice and pay, temporary layoff and recall rights.

Division 8 also outlines circumstances in which an employer or an employee may not be required to provide termination notice under the Code.

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