Alberta | Coronavirus

Alberta Updates Workplace Rules

July 30, 2020

Provincial Labour and Employment Standards Rebalanced

Bill 32, the Restoring Balance in Alberta’s Workplaces Act, received Royal Assent on July 29, and will result in a  number of changes to the province’s Employment Standards and Labour Relations Codes.

Changes as a result of this Act include simpler and more flexible rules regarding holiday pay, group terminations, payments of final earnings, payroll processes, rest periods and work averaging agreements. The Act also places restrictions on where unions can picket and how they can use membership dues to finance political activities. 

Most of the changes will come into effect November 1, 2020, however, changes to group termination notice, length of temporary layoffs and the flexible rules to apply for variances will be effective as of August 15, 2020. 

Summary of Changes to Alberta’s Employment Standards

Alberta Labour has provided an Employer Overview of New Rules that summarizes the changes being made to Alberta’s Employment Standards and Labour Codes. 

Changes include:

Simpler Holiday pay calculation
Under the new rules, the average daily wage would not include vacation pay and general holiday pay. The employee’s average daily wage would be total wages averaged over the number of days they worked in the four 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.

Correcting overpayment
Employers no longer need written permission from the employee to deduct an overpayment due to a payroll error or for vacation pay paid in advance.

Group termination notice
There will be one set of rules for all terminations of 50 or more people in a 4-week period. Employers will not have to give group termination notice to employees or unions. But employers will still have to give the Ministry of Labour notice.

Final pay
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 not later than 31 consecutive days after the last day of employment, better aligning with pay cycles and expected to save RCC members significant inconvenience.

Extension of temporary layoffs
Bill 32 extends the maximum duration of temporary layoffs from 60 days to 90 days in total within a 120-day period. If employees are recalled to work, employers will have to notify.  However, if a layoff is due to COVID-19, employers can lay off employees for 180 consecutive days before it is considered a termination.

Averaging agreements
Under the new rules employers will no longer need an employee’s consent to start or change an hours of work averaging arrangement. They will only be required to give the employee/s two weeks’ notice.  The Act also extends length of averaging periods from up to 12 weeks to up to 52 weeks. Extending the agreement beyond 52 weeks will need the approval of the Director of Employment Standards.  Arrangements will no longer need to have an end date.

Rest periods
For shifts that are longer than 5 hours, workers must get at least 30 minutes of rest every 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.

Administrative penalties
Employers would still have to pay a penalty for breaking rules. But the amount could be adjusted on a case-by-case basis with more time to submit the payment.

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.

Additional Rules If your employees are part of a Union

Bill 32, also updates rules that impact employers with employees that are part of a Union.

Employer Based Agreements
Employers and unions can agree to alter employment standards rules for hours of work, notice of work times, days of rest, and overtime hours under hours of work averaging arrangements.

New Union Agreements
If employees choose a new union, the existing collective agreement will still apply until it expires.

Renewal of Agreement Before Expiry
Employers and employees can renew a collective agreement before it expires. Employers can renew a collective agreement with their employees at an earlier time, as long as the Labour Relations Board is satisfied that employees have given informed consent.

New rules for strikes, lockouts and picketing
The law will change to require immediate filing of the Board’s order on a strike, lockout or picketing at the request of one of the parties (employer or union). There will also be stricter rules around picketing and secondary picketing.  Picketing would be deemed wrongful when it obstructs or impedes a person from crossing a picket line.

Changes to reverse onus rules
If a complaint is made against an employer, the employer is responsible for proving they did nothing wrong only when the complaint is about an employee being unfairly terminated.

Changes to rules on union certification and revocation
Changes will remove specific rules for timelines around union certification processes,

New rules for remedial certification
Legislation specifies when remedial certification can be used, such as when no other remedy is sufficient to counteract the impacts of the employer’s misconduct and the true wishes of employees cannot be determined.

Updated rules for negotiating a first agreement
The Board will only order first contract arbitration if a certain threshold is met, rendering first contract arbitration as an option of last resort.

Union Contributions to Political Parties
Employees will now be able to opt-in to pay the portion of union dues that go towards funding political parties and causes.

For additional information, please contact John Graham, Director of Goverent Relations (Prairies) at [email protected] or (204) 926-8624.

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