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Changes to Alberta’s Employment Standards Code under Bill 32

August 11, 2020

Employment Standards Code

Author: Fiona Balaton

Bill 32: Restoring Balance in Alberta’s Workplaces Act, was introduced in the Alberta Legislature on July 7, 2020, and received Royal Assent on July 29, 2020. Bill 32 introduces a number of changes to Alberta’s Employment Standards Code and Labour Relations Code.

This blog post explains some of the changes to the Employment Standards Code and sets out how these changes will affect employers and employees.

Extension of Temporary Layoffs

The maximum period before a non-COVID-19 related temporary layoff is deemed to be a termination of employment was previously 60 days within a 120-day period. Under the changes, employees can be laid off for a longer period of time (90 days within a 120 day period) without losing their job. If employees are recalled to work, employers will have to notify them in person, by mail, email or fax.

If a layoff was due to COVID-19, separate rules allow employees to be laid off for 180 consecutive days.

Group Termination Notice

Currently, the Employment Standards Code provides different rules for group terminations depending on whether more than 50, 100, or 300 employees are being terminated. The changes under Bill 32 simplify things by setting out just one set of rules for all terminations of 50 or more people in a four-week period. Under the changes, employers will not have to give group termination notice to employees or unions, but employers will still have to give the Ministry of Labour a four-week notice, or a reasonable amount of time, when they terminate more than 50 employees at a single location.

Pay and Payroll

Currently, employees must receive their final pay within 3 or 10 days after the last day of employment. Under Bill 32 Employees will get all of their final pay:

  • 10 consecutive days after the end of the pay period in which they were terminated, or
  • 31 consecutive days after the last day of employment

Rest periods

Currently, employers are required to provide 30 minutes of rest time within, or immediately after, each block of 5 consecutive hours of work. The change to the legislation does not alter the mandatory rest periods but will enable employers and employees to have greater flexibility to agree on the employee’s rest period schedule, provided that the schedule still complies with the legislation’s minimum requirements.

As long as employees get at least 30 minutes of rest every 5 hours for shifts that are longer than 5 hours, the rest period can be:

  • within or immediately after the 5 hours of work, or at any time mutually agreed upon by the employer and employee;
  • paid or unpaid; and
  • broken down into two 15 minute breaks instead of one 30 minute block for every 5 hours of work.

Youth employment

Under current rules, employers are required to get a permit to hire employees aged 13 and 14. Bill 32 makes it easier for employers to hire 13 and 14-year-olds as they won’t need to get a permit first. Types of employment allowable for 13 and 14 year olds include light janitorial work in offices, and coaching and tutoring. It also includes some jobs in the food service industry if the youth is working with someone aged 18 or older.

Holiday Pay Calculations

Currently, the “average daily wage” calculation for paying general holiday pay is 5% of the employee’s wages, general holiday pay, and vacation earned in the four weeks immediately preceding the general holiday. Under the changes to the legislation, employees will still get general holiday pay, but simplified rules may change the amount.

Average daily wage will no longer include vacation pay and general holiday pay. It will be calculated on the employee’s total wages averaged over the number of days they worked in the:

  • 4 weeks immediately before the general holiday, or
  • 4 weeks ending on the last day of the pay period that occurred just before the general holiday

Vacation Time

Currently, when an employee is absent from work, an employer is able to reduce the employee’s vacation and vacation pay in proportion to the number of days the employee was or would normally have been scheduled to work, but did not.

Bill 32 provides that employees will continue to accumulate vacation time while they are on a job-protected leave of absence.

Hours of Work

Averaging agreements are currently used in Alberta in order to schedule employees to work more than eight hours per day without incurring overtime by averaging the weekly hours they work over a specified period of time. Currently, these agreements require the consent of employees to implement.

The changes to the legislation provide that employee consent is no longer be required. Employers are able to implement or amend an “averaging arrangement” by giving affected employees two weeks’ notice.

As well, under the new “averaging arrangement” process:

Arrangements can have an averaging period of up to 52 weeks.

Arrangements will no longer need to have an end date.

Employers can negotiate with employees how to handle schedule changes or missed shifts but employees must get 8 hours of rest between shifts if there is a schedule change.

Employers do not have to provide daily overtime, unless daily overtime is included as part of the arrangement.

Weekly overtime threshold applies, regardless whether daily overtime is included in the arrangement or not.

Changes in the Employment Standards Code will take effect November 1, 2020 except for the following changes which will take effect August 15, 2020:

  • changes to the requirements around group termination notice
  • length of temporary layoffs

For any questions about the proposed changes to the legislation, please contact any of Carbert Waite’s Employment Lawyers.