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Alberta Employment Standards changes: what this means to you

On January 1, 2018, the Alberta Government passed Bill 17: The Fair and Family-Friendly Workplaces Act.   With a new administrative penalty system coming (details of the system will become public later this year), how will these changes impact your businesses and employees.

Here are some highlights:

General Holiday Pay
  • Most employees are entitled to take general holidays and receive general holiday pay immediately upon starting employment.
  • Most employees are entitled to general holidays and receive general holiday pay regardless of the day of the week the general holiday falls.
  • Employees who work a general holiday are entitled to either:
    • pay of 1.5 times what they would normally earn for the hours worked in addition to an amount that is their average daily wage, or
    • their standard wage rate for hours worked plus a day off at a future date and an amount that is their average daily wage for that day off.
  • Employees who don’t work on a general holiday and are eligible for general holiday pay must be paid at least their average daily wage.
  • Average daily wage calculated as 5% of the employee’s wages, general holiday pay and vacation pay earned in the 4 weeks immediately preceding the general holiday.

Note: Overtime pay is not included in the calculation of average daily wage.

Example calculation of general holiday pay

An employee makes $20/hour. Their vacation pay is paid out on each cheque. In the 4 weeks (28 days) leading up to the July 1 holiday (between June 3 and June 30), they worked 141 hours.

The first step in calculating general holiday pay is to calculate average daily wage.

WagesHours worked in previous 28 days x Hourly wage141 Hours x $20/hr = $2820
Vacation pay4% of wages$2820 x 0.04 = $112.80
General holiday pay
(from previous general holidays)*
There were no general holidays
between June 3 and June 30
Average daily wage5% of (Wages + Vacation pay
+ General holiday pay)
($2820 + $112.80 + $0)x .05 = $146.64
*Any general holiday pay paid out in the previous 4 weeks.

Then we can calculate the total owed based on whether the employee works on the general holiday.

If the employee doesn't work
on the general holiday
Average daily wage$146.64
If the employee works on
the general holiday
(Hours worked x Hourly wage
x 1.5)+ Average daily wage
(Hours worked x Hourly wage)
+ Paid day off at rate of average daily wage
(8 hours x $20/hour x 1.5)+$146.64 = $386.64
(8 hours x $20/hour)= $160
+ Day off at $146.64


Basic rules for Overtime - remains the same
  • Most employees are entitled to overtime pay.
  • There are some exemptions for certain industries and professions.
  • Overtime is all hours worked over 8 hours a day or 44 hours a week, whichever is greater (8/44 rule).
Banked Overtime
  • Overtime agreements will allow time to be banked for 6 months rather than 3.
  • Overtime banking will be calculated at 1.5x for all overtime hours worked, rather than hour-for-hour.
Compressed Work Weeks / Averaging Agreements

Basic rules

  • Compressed work weeks are now replaced by hours of work averaging agreements
  • There are 2 types of averaging agreements:
    • hours of work averaging agreement (between a group of employees or an individual)
    • flexible averaging agreement (individual only)
  • They allow employers to schedule an employee, or group of employees, to work longer hours per day paid at the employee’s regular wage rate.
  • The employer will average an employee’s hours of work over a period to determine overtime pay or time off with pay.
    • Up to 1-12 weeks for hours of work averaging agreements (HWAA)
    • Up to 2 weeks for flexible averaging agreements (FAA)
  • Extending the averaging period for an HWAA beyond the 12-week maximum requires a variance issued by the Director of Employment Standards.
  • Extending the averaging period for an FAA beyond the 2-week maximum will not be allowed.
  • Any compressed work week arrangement entered prior to Jan 1, 2018 will be in effect until Jan 1, 2019 or until the arrangement ends, whichever is earlier
Protected Unpaid Leave of Absences

Eligibility – Employees will be eligible for current (excluding reservists leave) and new leaves after 90 days, rather than one year.

  • Personal and Family Responsibility Leave – A new unpaid leave will provide up to 5 days of job protection per year for personal sickness or short-term care of an immediate family member. Includes attending to personal emergencies and caregiving responsibilities related to education of a child.
  • Long-Term Illness and Injury Leave – A new unpaid leave will provide up to 16 weeks of job protection per year for long-term personal sickness or injury. Medical certificate and reasonable notice will be required. This will align with the federal Employment Insurance program.
  • Bereavement Leave – A new unpaid leave will provide up to 3 days of job protection per year for bereavement of an immediate family member.
Youth Employment (The legislation is not in effect)
  • With the exception of artistic endeavours, youth under the age of 13 will not be allowed to work as employees. (Youth under the age of 13 will be allowed to be employed in artistic endeavours such as a theatre production with a permit.)
  • Youth aged 13-15 will only be allowed to work in jobs on the ‘light work’ list.
  • The Ministry will consult with employers and other stakeholders to modernize the list of allowable ‘light work’ jobs for youth under the age of 16 to include, for example, accommodation and food service tasks such as setting tables, golf caddying or working in a pro shop and tutoring, etc. The list will then be reviewed and updated every 3 years. Employment in a job that is not on the list will require a permit in advance.
  • Youth aged 15 years and under will not be allowed to work from 12:01 am to 6 am.
  • Youth under 16 will be prohibited from jobs deemed to include hazardous work.
  • The Ministry will be consulting with stakeholders to create a definition of hazardous work.
  • 16 and 17-year-olds will be allowed to do hazardous work only with a permit, and with proper training and supervision.

NOTE: No changes are being made immediately. These changes will come into effect after the Ministry finishes consultations on the list of light work jobs and the definition of hazardous work. Upcoming changes will have no effect on youth activities such as 4-H, or branding parties, and won’t stop friends and neighbours from helping each other as they have done for generations.

Maternity and parental leave
  • Employees are eligible for maternity and parental leave if they have been employed at least 90 days with the same employer.
  • Eligible employees can take time off work without pay for maternity or parental leave without risk of losing their job.
  • Employers must grant maternity or parental leave to eligible employees and give them their same, or equivalent, job back when they return to work.
  • Employers aren’t required to pay wages or benefits during leave, unless stated in an employment contract or collective agreement.
  • Employees on maternity or parental leave are considered to be continuously employed, for the purposes of calculating years of service.

The length of maternity leave is 16 weeks and the maximum length of parental leave is 62 weeks.

Employee eligibility

Employees are eligible for maternity or parental leave if they’ve been employed at least 90 days with the same employer.

Employees with less than 90 days of employment may still be granted leave. However, their employers aren’t required under employment standards legislation to grant them leave.

Employers can’t discriminate against, lay off or terminate an employee, or require them to resign, because of pregnancy or childbirth.

For more information, contact Alberta Human Rights Commission

If both parents work for the same employer, the employer isn’t required to grant leave to both employees at the same time.

Length of leave

Birth mothers can take up to 16 consecutive weeks of unpaid maternity leave. The number of weeks of leave exceeds the Employment Insurance benefit length by one week in recognition of the waiting period. Employees should be aware of this before taking their leave.

Leave can start any time within the 13 weeks leading up to the estimated due date and no later than the date of birth.

If pregnancy interferes with the employee’s job performance during the 12 weeks before their due date, employers can require that the employee start maternity leave earlier by notifying the employee in writing.

Birth mothers must take at least 6 weeks after birth for health reasons, unless:

  • the employer agrees to an early return to duties, and
  • the employee provides a medical certificate stating the return will not endanger her health

For more information, check out Alberta Employment Standards


A webinar to answer your questions:

To help you understand your obligations, we hosted a webinar with McLennan Ross - prominent employer labour lawyers.

Contact our Business Counselors with any outstanding questions. 

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