Changes to the Employment Standards Code

January 3, 2018

By Alex Norris


The Alberta Employment Standards Code, RSA 2000, c E-9 (the Code) sets out the minimum standards that apply to most employers and employees in the province. In 2017, the Alberta Government advised that it would be making a number of substantive changes to the Code.


On January 1, 2018, most of these changes came into effect. These changes are intended to update workplace laws to reflect modern realities for individuals and families in Alberta. However, they will also have a significant impact on employers. Please feel free to contact our office to discuss any of these issues in more detail.


1. Unpaid, Job-Protected Leaves

There are substantial changes to unpaid leave entitlements for employees. New leaves will be available and existing leaves will be expanded.


There are a variety of notice and eligibility requirements for these leaves that employers should be aware of, and we invite you to contact our employment team for more information if any of the below situations arise.


a) Changes to Existing Leaves

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b) New Leaves
In 2018, employees will be eligible for the following unpaid, job-protected leaves:


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These new leaves raise a variety of considerations:


  • The new and existing leaves are all unpaid but are also job-protected. This means an employer is not required to pay an employee while on leave, but the employer may not terminate the employee as a result of taking leave, or while the employee is on leave, or, in the case of maternity/parental leave, after giving notice of intention to take a leave. While an employee is on leave, the employer is obligated to keep that employee’s job open.
  • Employees may take multiple leaves throughout a single calendar year. For instance, an employee dealing with complex family issues may take up to 10 days in connection with a domestic violence situation, up to 5 days to address personal emergencies, and up to 36 weeks to care for a critically ill child.
  • Employees may avail themselves of these leaves each calendar year. For example, an employee with a chronic illness may take up to 16 weeks per year as a long term injury leave, every year.


c) Eligibility and Notice

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2. Compressed Work Weeks and Overtime Agreements

Compressed work week arrangements are being replaced with “averaging agreements”. Employers and employees may agree to average work hours over a specified period for the purpose of determining overtime eligibility. An averaging agreement must:


  • Be in writing;
  • Specify a start and end date (for a term of not more than 2 years);
  • Specify the averaging period (up to 12 weeks), as well as the overtime hour thresholds per day (up to 12 hours/day) and per week (up to 44 hours/week);
  • Specify how overtime pay (or time off in lieu) will be calculated; and
  • Be provided to all affected employees, or a copy must be posted online and in the workplace.


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3. Rest Periods

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4. Holiday Pay and Vacation Pay

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5. Deductions

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6. Youth Employment

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7. Terminations and Temporary Layoffs

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8. Administration and Enforcement

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Final Thoughts

If you are an employer, we strongly advise that you review your policies and practices to ensure that they meet the new requirements. Keep in mind that the standards provided for in the Code are the minimum standards that all employers in Alberta must meet (unless they are federally regulated or subject to collective agreements). If you have a policy or practice in place that does not comply with the new Code, you may be at risk of a complaint or enforcement proceedings.


We invite you to contact the employment team at Dunphy Best Blocksom LLP if you have any questions about these changes or about your workplace generally. We would be happy work with you to ensure that your workplace is compliant with the new Code, and to assist you in limiting any liabilities that may flow from these changes.

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