On July 29, 2020, Bill 32, the Restoring Balance in Alberta’s Workplaces Act, received royal assent. Bill 32 made a number of changes to the Alberta Employment Standards Code and Labour Relations Code.
Most of the changes made to the Alberta Employment Standards Code came into effect on November 1, 2020. However, a few changes came into force earlier, on August 15, 2020.
What changes to Alberta labour standards came into effect on August 15?
As of August 15, 2020, the following changes were applied to the Alberta Employment Standards Code.
Changes to group termination notice
Now there is just one set of rules for all terminations of 50 or more employees in a four-week period. Employers do not have to give group termination notice to employees or unions. But they must provide individual termination notices to affected workers.
Employers must provide 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.
If the employer cannot do so, they may provide written notice “as soon as reasonable in the circumstances“.
Previously, there were different notice requirements depending on the number of workers being terminated.
Length of temporary layoffs– Unrelated to COVID-19
The maximum duration for temporary layoffs in Alberta is 90 days total in a 120-day period. This applies if the initial date of the layoff was on or after June 18, 2020.
From March 17 to June 17, 2020, the maximum length was 120 consecutive days from the initial layoff date. Prior to March 17, 2020, it was 60 days total in a 120-day period.
Length of temporary layoffs– Related to COVID-19
If a layoff is due to COVID-19, separate rules allow employers to lay off employees for 180 consecutive days before it’s considered a termination.
Variances and exemptions
Bill 32 brings more flexible rules that would make it simpler and faster for employers to get approved for, and renew a variance or exemption.
What changes to Alberta labour standards came into effect on November 1?
The major changes brought on by Bill 32 came into effect on November 1, 2020. Employers must understand these changes and implement them in their workplaces, or they will be in violation of the ESC and could face costly fines.
Holiday pay calculation
Bill 32 made it simpler to calculate general holiday pay. Previously, the general holiday pay in Alberta was worked out by calculating the average daily wage. The average daily wage was 5% of the worker’s wages + general holiday pay + vacation pay earned in the four weeks immediately preceding the general holiday.
Under the new rules, employers no longer have to include vacation pay or general holiday pay in the average daily wage calculation. The employee’s average daily wage is total wages averaged over the number of days they worked in the:
- Four weeks immediately before the general holiday, OR
- Four weeks ending on the last day of the pay period that occurred just before the general holiday.
Employers will no longer need written permission from the employee to deduct an overpayment due to a payroll error or for vacation pay paid in advance. But employers will still have to inform employees that overpayments will be deducted from their pay checks. The deduction must be made within six months of the overpayment.
Upon termination under the new rules, employees get all of their final pay not later than:
- 10 consecutive days after the end of the pay period in which termination occurred, or
- 31 consecutive days after the last day of employment.
Prior to this, employees got their final pay within three or 10 consecutive days (in case proper termination notice was not given) after the last day of employment.
Under averaging arrangements, employers can schedule an employee to work longer hours every day paid at the employee’s regular wage rate.
Bill 32 provides for flexible rules for hours of work averaging arrangements.
Employers no longer need an employee’s consent to start or change an averaging arrangement. They only have to provide an employee two weeks’ notice.
Bill 32 also extended the length of averaging periods of up to 52 weeks. Extending the agreement beyond 52 weeks will need the approval of the Director of Employment Standards.
Arrangements no longer need an end date. Employers now have more flexibility to alter shifts as long as employees get 8 hours of rest between shifts. When altering shifts, an employer must provide at least 24 hours’ written notice to all affected staff.
Previously, consent was required to enter the agreement, which had an end date. The maximum length of the averaging period was up to 12 weeks.
Employers will have to provide:
- At least one 30-minute break (paid or unpaid) for shifts between 5 and 10 hours
- At least two 30-minute breaks (paid or unpaid) for shifts 10 hours or longer
Prior to these changes, an employee was entitled to at least 30 minutes of rest (paid or unpaid) after 5 consecutive hours of work.
Bill 32 allows employees to continue to accumulate vacation time while they are on a job-protected leave, as opposed to previous ESC provisions which allowed an employer to reduce an employee’s vacation and vacation pay when the employee is absent from work.
Bill 32 adds to the list of jobs that 13- and 14-year-olds can do without a permit. These include light janitorial work in offices, coaching, and tutoring.
If the youth is working with someone 18 or older, they can also take up certain jobs in the food services industry.
Employers would be responsible for the health and safety of young workers. They must ensure the youth are well trained and capable of doing the job.
Employers will still have to pay a penalty for breaking rules. But the amount could be adjusted on a case-by-case basis, and employers will have more time to submit the payment.
Do you have questions about the changes to the Alberta Employment Standards Code?
We can help you understand your obligations and rights under the new legislation. To get advice on how to maintain your business during the pandemic, call an expert today: 1 (833) 247-3652.