Significant Changes to Alberta’s Workplace Legislation

Authored by Philip A.S. Milley, Associate Director, Legal Affairs 

Outlined below are significant legislative amendments to and inclusions in the Alberta Employment Standards Code (the “ESC”) and Labour Relations Code (the “LRC”), which come into effect on January 1, 2018. These changes will affect all provincially-regulated employers in the Province of Alberta, both unionized and non-unionized, and come as a result of Bill 17, the Fair and Family-Friendly Workplaces Act (the “Act”), which received Royal Assent in Alberta.

The Act aims to introduce balance to the employment relationship, bringing the workplace regime in Alberta on par with many other Canadians provinces. Alberta currently has some of the oldest workplace laws in Canada, being last updated nearly 30 years ago. A primary policy objective motivating the amendments is to ensure that Albertans enjoy the same rights and protections as other Canadians. (https://www.alberta.ca/workplace-legislation-changes.aspx) The changes may be difficult for many employers to swallow.

Legislative Changes

The legislative changes can be categorized into two categories: amendments and inclusions. Most charities will be interested in the changes to the ESC, as these are the laws that apply to non-unionized workplaces. The changes that occur to the LRC will bear no impact on non-unionized workplaces. As a result, only the most significant changes that impact non-unionized workplaces are reviewed below. The legislative changes include:

  1. New Leaves Available: employees will now be entitled to various new leaves. Such leaves include:  
    1. long-term illness and injury leave of up to 16 weeks of job unpaid protection per year for long-term personal sickness or injury. Medical certificate and reasonable notice will be required. (s. 53.97(1))
    2. personal and family responsibility leave of up to 5 days of unpaid job protection per year for personal sickness or short-term care of an immediate family member. (s. 53.982(1))
    3. bereavement leave of up to 3 days of unpaid job protection per year for bereavement of an immediate family member. (s. 53.983(1))
    4. domestic violence leave of up to 10 days of unpaid job protection per year for situations relating to domestic violence. (s. 53.981(1))
    5. citizenship ceremony leave of up to a half-day of unpaid job protection to attend a citizenship ceremony. (s. 53.984(1))
    6. critical illness of a child leave of up to 36 weeks of unpaid job protection for parents of critically ill or injured children. (s. 53.96(1))
    7. death or disappearance of a child of up to 52 weeks of unpaid job protection for employees whose child disappeared as a result of a crime, or up to 104 weeks if a child died as a result of a crime. (s. 53.91(1))
  2. Leaves Available Sooner: eligibility for various workplace leaves will be reduced from one year to 90 days. All leaves to which 90-day eligibility applies include:
    1. maternity leave (s. 45), parental leave (s. 51(1))
    2. compassionate care leave (s. 53.9(1))
    3. death or disappearance of a child (s. 53.91(1))
    4. critical illness of a child (s. 53.96(1))
    5. long-term illness and injury leave (s. 53.97(1))
    6. personal and family responsibility (s. 53.982(1))
    7. bereavement leave (s. 53.983(1))
    8. leave for citizenship ceremony (s. 53.984(1))
  3. Extended Leave Entitlement: leave entitlements are extended as follows:
    1. compassionate care leave extended from eight to 27 weeks.
    1. maternity and parental leave job protection extended to 16 weeks from 15.
  4. Rest Periods: a minimum of a 30-minute period of rest is required, paid or unpaid, within every 5 hours of consecutive employment. Two 15-minute breaks are permitted if agreed to by the employer.
  5. Permitted Deductions: the legislation will introduce clarification respecting what deductions are permissible to be deducted from wages, including prohibitions on those that are not permissible.
  6. Protections for Persons with Disabilities: minimum wage: employers will no longer be entitled to pay persons with disabilities less than minimum wage.
  7. Longer Overtime Banking: overtime agreement will permit time to be banked for six, rather than three, months. Overtime banking will be calculated at time x 1.5, rather than an hour-for-hour calculation.
  8. Greater Holiday Pay: holiday pay will be calculated at 5%, as opposed to 4%, and the requirement to have worked 30 days in the 12 months before the holiday will be removed. The regular and non-regular day of work distinction will be eliminated.
  9. Greater Vacation Entitlement: vacation entitlement will change to include a 4%, or two weeks of total wages, pay until an employee has been employed for a period of 5 years, after which at least 6%. Half-day vacation increments will be permitted.
  10. Restriction on Termination Periods: employers will be prohibited from forcing employees to use vacation or overtime during the termination notice period unless agreed to by both. Termination pay will be based on the previous 13 weeks the employee worked. Various changes to lay-off provisions.
  11. Under 13, Can’t Work: persons under the age of 13 will not be permitted to work, except for being involved in artistic endeavours, such as theatre productions.
  12. Hazardous Work Restrictions: the list of work for those under 16 will be modernized and will prohibit hazardous work.
  13. New Penalties Available: penalties for failure to comply with the legislation. Fine will not exceed $10,000 per violation or for each day a violation or contravention applies.

What this Means for Charities

Charities with provincially-regulated employees in Alberta will be interested in the upcoming changes to the Employment Standards Code, as the changes will have a significant impact on your ministry. It is likely that increased operational and administration costs will be necessary. Your charity should be prepared to implement and address necessary changes before the legislation comes into force.

 

Noteworthy is provided for general information purposes and does not constitute legal or professional advice. Every organization’s circumstances are unique. Before acting on the basis of information contained in this blog, readers should consult with a qualified lawyer for advice specific to their situation.