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April 6 2020 Updates to the Employment Standards Code

April 8, 2020

Employment Standards Code

Author: Mihai Beschea & Kevin Stenner

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected Alberta’s economy and working culture.  In response to this pandemic, the Alberta Government issued Ministerial Order 18.2020 which came into effect on April 6, 2020 and made several legislative changes to the Employment Standards Code. An overview of those changes from the Alberta Government can be found here. Key information about these changes is discussed below. 

This information is current as at the time of publication. However, as this situation is rapidly changing, the reader should confirm that the below information is still current before relying on it.

Changes to the Employment Standards Code for Employees

Unpaid Job-Protected Leave

  • This leave is available to employees caring for:
    • Children affected by school closures, daycare closures, or illness; and
    • Self-isolating family members due to COVID-19.
  • The previous 90-day employment requirement to access this leave has been waived. This is an important update as new employees can access this leave immediately. 
  • A medical note is not required to access this leave and the length of the leave is flexible. 

Changes to the Employment Standards Code for Employees and Employers

Temporary Layoffs

  • The maximum time for a temporary layoff is increased from 60-days to 120-days. 
  • This change is retroactive and applies to any temporary layoffs related to COVID-19 that occurred on or after March 17, 2020.

Changes to the Employment Standards Code for Employers

Scheduling Flexibility

  • The 24-hour written notice requirement for shift changes is removed. 
  • The 2-weeks’ notice for changes to a work schedule for those under an averaging agreement is also removed.

Group Termination Notice Removed

  • Employers will no longer be required to provide group termination notices to employees and unions when 50 or more employees are terminated.
  • Individual terminations entitlements remain in effect.
  • Employers must give group termination notices to the Ministry of Labour and Immigration as soon as practical.

Streamlining Approvals for Modifying Employment Standards (Variances and Exemptions)

  • A group of employers or an employer association may apply to the Ministry of Labour for a variance or exemption to any minimum employment standard. Several variances are streamlined:
    • Three-hour pay minimum. Employers are re
    • quired to pay employee a minimum of 3-hours when they are asked to work or attend training, even if it is for a period of less than 3-hours. An employer may apply for a variance of this rule to pay no less than 30-minutes but no more than 2.5 hours.
    • Extended work days. Employers are required to provide employees with 1-day of rest for each consecutive week, up to 4-weeks. Four consecutive days of rest are required after 24-consecutive days of work. An employer may apply for a variance to extend the number of consecutive work days beyond the maximum of 24.
    • Extend day of work. A work day for an employer must be confined to a period of 12-consecutive hours. An employer may apply for a variance to extend the maximum number of consecutive work hours in a day, up to a maximum of 16-hours.
    • Extend period of averaging. Employers and employees may enter into an agreement to average the hours worked over a period of one to 12-weeks. An employer may apply for a variance to extend the averaging period for an agreement for up to a maximum of 26-weeks.

Temporary Workplace Rules due to COVID-19

These are temporary workplace rules to help employees and employers manage rapidly changing conditions. These temporary rules will apply as long as the public health emergency order remains in place and until the government determines they are no longer required.

If you require assistance navigating these changes or require more employment law information please don’t hesitate to contact someone from our Employment Group.

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