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Current Alberta Employment Standards rules

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


Vacation and vacation pay

Basic rules

  • Employers must provide an annual vacation to most employees based on length of service to make sure they can rest from work without loss of income.
  • Employers must give vacation time, and employees must take the vacation to which they’re entitled.
  • Employees must work for one year before they’re entitled to vacation time
  • Employees are entitled to these minimum paid vacations:
    • 2 weeks with pay after each of the first 4 years of employment
    • 3 weeks with pay after 5 consecutive years of employment

Employee eligibility

Basic eligibility

Most employees are entitled to vacation time and vacation pay after being employed for one year.

However, upon employee request and employer’s acceptance, an employee can take vacation with pay before completing a full 12 months of employment.

Exemptions from the minimum standards for vacations and vacation pay

Some employees who work in specified industries and professions aren’t eligible for annual vacations and vacation pay, including:

  • licensed or registered salespersons of real estate and securities
  • commission salespersons who solicit orders principally outside the place of business of their employer; route salespersons are not exempt
  • extras in a film or video production
  • licensed insurance salespersons who are paid entirely by commission income

Exceptions to the minimum standards for vacations and vacation pay

Construction workers

Employers aren’t required to give their construction employees vacation time. However, construction employees must be paid vacation pay of at least 6% of their wages.

See Construction – Employment Standards Exceptions for more information

Vacation time

Employee entitlements

Employers must give vacation time and employees must take the vacation to which they’re entitled. Where employees have already been paid vacation pay, their time off will be without additional pay.

How vacation time is calculated

The minimum vacation pay and vacation time is accrued during 12-month periods as follows:

Length of employmentNumber of weeks' annual vacation
Less than 1 yearNot entitled unless stated in contract
1 to 5 years2 weeks
More than 5 years3 weeks

Timing of vacations

Employees must take their vacation time sometime in the 12 months after they earn it.

Length of vacations

An employer is required to provide annual vacations to employees.  Employers are to provide vacations in one unbroken period, however, an employee can request, in writing, for the vacation to be broken into shorter periods and if the request can be accommodated, the employer should provide this.

Vacation time is allowed to be taken in half-day increments if agreed to by the employer and employee.

Disagreements about vacation dates

Employers are allowed to deny requests for vacation at specific times due to operational reasons.  If the employer and employee can’t agree on the employee’s vacation time, the employer can decide when it will be taken. However, the employer must give the employee at least 2 weeks’ notice in writing of the vacation start date.

When a general holiday falls during a vacation

If qualified for the general holiday, the employee can take off either the first scheduled working day after their vacation; or, in agreement with the employer, they can take another day that would otherwise have been a work day, before their next annual vacation.

Vacation pay

Employee entitlements

Vacation pay is based on an employee’s wages paid for work (not other earnings) at the time the vacation is taken.

For the purpose of calculating vacation pay, the definition of wages doesn’t include:

  • overtime pay
  • general holiday pay
  • termination pay
  • an unearned bonus
  • tips and gratuities, or
  • expenses and allowances

How vacation pay is calculated

For employees paid monthly

For employees paid by monthly salary, the employer must pay the employee’s regular rate of pay for the time of their vacation.

Each week of vacation pay is calculated by dividing their monthly wage by 4.3333 (which is the average number of weeks in a month).

For employees paid other than monthly

For employees who are paid hourly, weekly, or by commission or other incentive pay, the employer must pay:

Length of employmentNumber of weeks' annual vacation
Less than 1 yearNot entitled unless stated in contract
1 to 4 years2 weeks
5 years or more3 weeks

Change of benefits

Increasing vacation pay

If the employer agrees to provide vacation pay greater than required by the Code, Employment Standards can enforce this.

Reducing vacation pay

If the employer intends to reduce an employee's vacation pay, they must notify the employee before the start of the pay period in which the reduction takes effect. However, the rate must always be at least the minimum required by the legislated standards. This can only be applied on future vacation pay to be accrued and can’t be applied retroactively on vacation pay earned, but not yet paid to the employee.

An employee’s annual vacation period can also be reduced if that employee is absent from work. The reduction in vacation period may be made in proportion to the number of days the employee was or would normally have been scheduled to work, but did not.

When vacation pay is paid out

When an employer pays an employee vacation pay each pay period, they must pay it:

  • at least once a month,
  • on each pay period, or
  • at least one day before the employee’s vacation if vacation pay has not previously been paid out, and the employee requests it, and
  • no later than the next regular pay day after the vacation begins

An employer must provide an employee with a statement of earnings that includes vacation pay at the end of each pay period.

See Payment of earnings for more information.

Anniversary date

Employers can establish a common anniversary date for employees, for vacation purposes. However, an employee must not lose any entitlement to vacation time or pay as a result of the introduction of a common anniversary date.


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 changes came into affect January 1, 2019

With the exception of artistic endeavours, youth age 12 and under will not be allowed to work as employees as of January 1, 2019. (Youth age 12 and under will be allowed to be employed in artistic endeavours such as a theatre production with a permit.)

Basic rules

  • There are restrictions on the jobs that young workers can do.
    • Some jobs for youth require a government permit. This varies by age group and type of work.
    • Youth aged 14 and under need to get a parent or guardian's permission to work.
  • There are also restrictions on the hours when young workers are allowed to work.
  • There are some important exceptions:
    • Rules for youth employment only apply to employees, not self-employed contractors or volunteers. For more details, see Self-Employed and Contractors.
    • There are different rules for students in an approved training course or integrated learning program.
    • Rules on employing youth don’t apply to work on farms and ranches
  • Regardless of age, all employees under 18 years of age are entitled to the minimum standards of employment, such as general holidays, vacations, minimum wage and termination notice or pay.
  • As with all workers in Alberta, employers of young people need to perform hazard assessments and control workplace hazards.

Employees 12 years of age and under

  • May only be employed in an artistic endeavour.
    • A permit is required for work in artistic endeavours.
    • Allowable hours of work and any other restrictions will be determined during the permit approval process.
  • Parent or guardian consent is required.

For more information on applying for a permit for those aged 12 and under, see Youth Permit.

Employees 13 to 14 years of age

  • May be employed in:
  • Any of the following jobs without a permit:
    • clerk or messenger in an office or retail store
    • delivery person for small goods and merchandise for a retail store
    • delivering flyers, newspapers and handbills or
    • certain duties in the restaurant/food services industry, see Restaurant/Food Services Industry
    • An artistic endeavour, with a permit from Employment Standards
    • Work not listed above with a permit from Employment Standards.

For more information on applying for a permit for those age 13-14, see Youth Permits.

Restaurant and food services industry

Youth who are age 13 or 14 can do some jobs in the restaurant/food services industry under an Director’s Approval of an Occupation.

Youth age 13 or 14 can do the following jobs:

  • host/hostess
  • cashier
  • dish washer
  • bussing tables
  • server or waiter
  • providing customer service
  • assembling food orders
  • cleaning

Youth who are age 13 or 14 cannot:

  • use deep fryers, slicers, grills or other potentially dangerous equipment, or work where such equipment is used
  • work with or near any moving vehicles
  • work in areas where smoking is permitted

Employers of youth who are age 13 or 14 must ensure that:

  • young workers are under continuous adult supervision
  • a Safety Checklist (PDF, 116 KB) is completed and submitted to Employment Standards

Completed safety checklists must be submitted to Employment Standards and kept on file at the work site.

Restrictions on hours of work

  • Employees between 13 and 14 years have the following restrictions on hours of work:
    • can’t work between 9 pm and 6 am
    • can't work during school hours, unless they're enrolled in an off-campus education program
    • can only work up to 2 hours outside of regular school hours, on school days
    • can work up to 8 hours on non-school days

Employees aged 15 to 17

May be employed in any type of work:

  • No permits are required
  • Parent or guardian consent is only required to work during restricted hours

Restrictions on hours of work

Employees who are 15 years of age cannot work during regular school hours unless enrolled in an off-campus education program.

Employees 15 to 17 years of age who work in retail or hospitality (as listed below) can only work between 9 p.m. and 12 a.m. with adult supervision. They can't work between 12:01 a.m. and 6 a.m.

Employees 15 to 17 years of age who work in jobs that are not in retail or hospitality can work between 12:01 am and 6:00 am. However, they require:

  • parental or guardian consent
  • adult supervision


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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