Alberta introduces significant changes to employment standards and labour relations legislation - Retail Council of Canada

Alberta introduces significant changes to employment standards and labour relations legislation

May 25, 2017

Alberta’s Labour Minister Christina Gray introduced significant changes to the Employment Standards Code and Labour Relations Code in the legislature on Wednesday, May 24, 2017. The Government announced the amendments are expected to come into effect on January 1, 2018.

Key changes to employment standards legislation are:

  • Changes to general holiday pay and vacation pay (increases to 6% at 5 years employment) provisions;
  • Increase of maternity, parental and compassionate care leave to align with federal Employment Insurance guidelines;
  • Leave eligibility to be available after 90 days, down from one (1) year;
    Introduction of job protection during unpaid leave for a variety of circumstances, including but not limited to: long-term illness and injury, bereavement, domestic violence, and illness of a child;
  • Increase in the minimum working age from 12 to 13 and limiting youth aged 13 to 18 from taking on hazardous work;
  • Overtime banking to be calculated at 1.5 times all overtime hours worked, instead of hour-for-hour;
  • Overtime to be bankable for six months (increased from three months) if provided for in overtime agreement;
  • Mandatory 30-minute rest periods (paid or unpaid) per five consecutive hours worked (two 15-minute rest periods may be substituted if agreed to by both employer and employee);
  • Compressed work weeks will be referred to as “Averaging Agreements,” and now require the support of the majority of employees affected (or be written into a union collective agreement);
  • In Averaging Agreements work hours can be averaged over a period of 1 to 12 weeks for determining overtime eligibility if agreed to by both employer and employees. Employers who need longer cycles can apply for permits;
  • Notice requirements to employees, unions and the Minister of Labour for employers planning group terminations have been increased and scaled according to size of business: eight weeks for 50-100 employees, 12 weeks for 101-300 employees and 16 weeks for 301+ employees.

In addition, labour relations amendments include:

  • Significant changes to the process by which a union is certified and decertified (if between 40% and 65% of employees sign a card in favour of a union, a labour relations board-conducted vote would be required; if over 65% of employees sign a card, no vote would be required; decertification requirements will mirror certification requirements);
  • For unfair labour practice complaints involving discipline, dismissal or other alleged employee intimidation, a shift of onus from employee to employer to prove their action did not constitute an unfair labour practice;
  • Broadening of definition for ‘employee’ to include dependent contractors who work for one employer, allowing them to unionize and engage in collective bargaining;
  • Removal of restrictions on secondary picketing.

Further information can be found on the Alberta Government’s website for Employment Standards amendments and Labour Relations changes.

Next Steps:

RCC will monitor the progress of the legislation. RCC will meet with the Minister of Labour and Ministry staff and outline the significant cost and operational impacts of the changes. RCC will advocate for a stakeholder consultation process and alterations to the implementation date for certain provisions.


The Alberta Government had promised to update the province’s Employment Standards Code and Labour Relations Code. The changes (in Bill 17, The Fair and Family-friendly Workplaces Act) are based upon recommendations from labour relations lawyer Andrew Sims who undertook a review of workplace legislation for the Government.

If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact: Karl Littler, Vice-President, Public Affairs at 416-467-3783 or