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Alberta introduces new employment standards. Do you know the rules?

When It Comes to Employment Relationships, You Need to Know The Rules


The pandemic has undoubtedly affected Canadian employers and employees in ways that we could not have anticipated. What has been astounding is the rate at which we have collectively adapted to a significant change in how we work and do business. Even governments, who are stereotypically thought of to be slow to change and full of red tape, quickly addressed the challenges faced in employment relationships.


As a result of the pandemic, Alberta introduced Bill 32: Restoring Balance in Alberta’s Workplaces Act. The Bill was introduced and became law on July 29th and brought with it changes to both the Employment Standards Code and the Labour Relations code. Some changes came into effect on August 15th and others will arrive on November 1st.


These are the changes that came into effect on August 15th:


1. One set rule for all group terminations of 50 or more:

As of August 15, 2020, there is now only one set of rules for all group terminations of 50 or more employees at one single location within a four-week period. Employers are required to provide four week’s notice to the minister of labour or, if this is not possible, provide written notice “as soon as is reasonable and practicable in the circumstances.”


2. Increasing length of temporary layoffs:

Bill 32 has increased the time limit for temporary layoffs from 60 days to 90 days within a 120 day period. Prior to COVID, a temporary layoff longer than 60 days within a 120 day period would have resulted in a deemed termination of the employee’s employment.


3. Flexibility to allow for variances and exemptions to the code:

As a way to help employers adjust to the “new normal” created by COVID-19, it is now easier to apply for and renew variances and exceptions to the labour code. This could include provisions such as maximum daily hours and shifts.


As of November 1st, the remainder of the changes to the code will come into effect:


1. Flexibility to work averaging agreements and rest periods:

It will be easier for employers to set up arrangements, create schedules and calculate overtime. Averaging agreements allow some relief for employers with respect to overtime, as they allow an employee’s worked time to be averaged over a specific period rather than calculated weekly. Employers can start or change an hours of work averaging arrangement by giving employees two weeks’ notice, without getting employees’ consent. Arrangements can have an averaging period of up to 52 weeks (prior to Bill 32 it was 12 weeks). The Director of Employment Standards will be able to approve extensions past 52 weeks. Arrangements will no longer need to have an end date. More flexibility to change shifts however, employees must receive 8 hours of rest between shifts. There is more flexibility for employers to determine how and if daily overtime applies. Overtime is calculated on the greater of weekly or daily overtime hours when daily overtime is included. Averaging period overtime must be paid to the employee no later than 10 days after the pay period that the averaging period ends, which may be as long as 52 weeks, as determined by the employers.

Currently, employers are required to provide employees with at least 30 minutes of rest time for every five hours of consecutive work performed by the employee. As of Nov. 1, 2020, employers will be required to provide at least one 30-minute break for shifts between five and 10 hours in length, and at least two 30-minute breaks for shifts 10 hours or longer. Employers and employees will also have greater flexibility to determine when or how breaks are taken, provided the minimum requirements under the code are met.


2. Termination pay:

Bill 32 provides employers more time to issue an employee’s final pay following dismissal. Employers can choose on of the following options:

  • Ten consecutive days after the end of the pay period in which termination occurred, or

  • 31 consecutive days after the last day of employment

This would better align with pay cycles. The Canadian Payroll Association estimates this change could save Alberta employers $100 million per year. Writing a separate cheque for termination pay can cost employers an extra $91 dollars.


3. Holiday pay:

Employers will no longer have to include vacation pay and general holiday pay in the average daily wage calculation. Average daily wage will be the employees’ total wages averaged over number of days they worked in the:

  1. Four weeks immediately before the general holiday, or

  2. Four weeks ending on the last day of the pay period that occurred just before the general holiday.

The employer can choose which calculation period best aligns with their payroll cycle.


4. Deductions from earnings:

Employers will now have the ability to make adjustments to employee’s wages to recover overpayments paid to the employee as a result of payroll errors or vacation pay paid to the employee as a result of payroll errors or vacation pay paid to the employee in advance. Written notice is required and the deduction must be made within 6 weeks of the overpayment. Prior to November 1st, an employer would have needed the employee’s written consent to make the deduction for the overpayment.


5. Vacation accrual:

Bill 32 clarifies that employees continue to accumulate vacation time while they are on a job leave of absence from the workplace.


6. Jobs for the younger workforce:

Bill 32 expands the types of jobs that 13 and 14-year olds can do without needing a permit. These changes encourage employers to hire more young Albertans, so they can get important work experience to help secure their futures. Employers are still responsible for the health and safety of young workers and are required to ensure they are properly trained and capable of doing the work. The various job can include tutoring, coaching, little janitorial duties and some jobs in the food industry if they are supervised by someone 18 or older.


While the arrival of Bill 32 offers small business employers some reprieve, they also add to the challenge of interpreting and putting into practice a new set of rules and HR policies and procedures. Our team of experienced HR practitioners can help! We offer cost effective HR audits and advisory support to ensure your company is leveraging every opportunity to survive and thrive in this new economy. Contact us at info@vimyhr.com or 403-478-7710 to explore how we can support your people strategy and profitability.


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