Canada: In Case You Missed It: Significant Changes To Alberta's Workplace Laws Are Coming
Paul Boshyk and Gordana Ivanovic
In June 2017, the Alberta Government passed the Fair and Family-Friendly Workplaces Act (Bill 17),
setting the stage for significant amendments to the Employment Standards Code (ESC) and Labour
Relations Code (LRC). Most of the changes will come into force on January 1, 2018, and will affect all
provincially-regulated employers in the Province of Alberta, both unionized and non-unionized.
In this article, we will summarize some of the most significant changes to the ESC and LRC.
Employment Standards Code.
Bill 17 will introduce the following changes to the ESC, the statute governing minimum employment
standards in Alberta:
Long-Term Illness and Injury Leave: Eligible employees will be entitled to take an unpaid, job-protected
leave of up to 16 weeks per year due to long-term personal sickness, injury or quarantine. Employers will
be entitled to ask for a medical certificate issued by a physician stating the estimated duration of the
employee's absence. Personal and Family Responsibility Leave: Eligible employees will be entitled to take
an unpaid, job-protected leave of up to 5 days per year for personal sickness or the short-term care of an
immediate family member. This will include attending to personal emergencies and caregiving
responsibilities related to the education of a child. Domestic Violence Leave: An employee who is a victim
of domestic violence will be entitled to take an unpaid, job-protected leave of up to 10 days per year for
certain specified purposes, including seeking medical attention or counseling. Leave Eligibility: Employees will now be eligible to take leaves of absences under the ESC after 90 days of employment, as opposed
to 1 year. Overtime: Employees will be eligible to take time off in lieu of overtime pay at a rate of 1.5 hours
for each hour of overtime worked, as opposed to the current rate of 1 hour per hour of overtime worked.
Employees will also be allowed to bank overtime for 6 months, as opposed to the current period of 3
months. Rest Periods: Employees will be entitled to a minimum 30-minute break (paid or unpaid) within
every 5 consecutive hours of work. If agreed to between the employer and employee, breaks can be
taken in two 15-minute installments. Termination of Employment: Employers will be prohibited from forcing
employees to use entitlements such as vacation during a termination notice period, except as agreed to
by both the employer and employee. The ESC will also be amended to prohibit the dismissal of
employees on maternity and parental leave except where the employer's business is closed or
suspended. Temporary Layoff: The possibility of an indefinite temporary layoff will be eliminated by
requiring that layoffs be limited to 60 days within a 120-day period. Layoffs that exceed this period will be
deemed to result in termination of employment. However, layoffs can be extended if wages and/or
benefits are paid to the employee and the employee consents to the extension.
Labour Relations Code
Bill 17 will also introduce the following changes to the LRC, the statute governing labour relations in Alberta:
Card-based Certification: If between 40-65% of employees in a bargaining unit sign cards in favour of a
union, a certification vote will be required. However, if more than 65% of employees sign cards, the union
will be automatically certified without a vote (although the Alberta Labour Relations Board will retain the
ability to require a vote should it doubt the authenticity of the support). Unfair Labour Practices: In unfair
labour practice complaints involving discipline, dismissal or other alleged intimidation of an employee, the
employer have the onus of proving that the action it took does not constitute an unfair labour practice, as
opposed to requiring the employee prove that it does. In cases where employers have engaged in unfair
practices, the Board will also have the ability to certify a union without a vote. Dependent Contractors: The
definition of "employee" in the LRC will be broadened to include "dependent contractors", that is:
contractors who are in a position of economic dependence on their principals (whether or not the
contractor furnishes his or her own tools, equipment, etc.). Note that this particular change comes into
effect on September 1, 2017.
The foregoing is non-exhaustive list of upcoming changes to the ESC and LRC. A more comprehensive
list of amendments is available on the Alberta Government's website: "Employment Standards Code
changes"; "Labour Relations Code changes".
In order to prepare for these changes, Alberta employers should start reviewing their policies, practices
and procedures now to ensure that they are compliant come January 1, 2018.
The foregoing provides only an overview and does not constitute legal advice. Readers are cautioned
against making any decisions based on this material alone. Rather, specific legal advice should be
© McMillan LLP 2017
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2014 Alberta Construction Trade Definitions
Please see the attached updated version of the 2014 Alberta Construction Trade Definitions for your use (updated as of June 2014).
2014 Alberta Construction Trade Definitions
Please destroy the earlier January version you are currently using. In summary the following updates have been implemented:
- Removed line item reference numbers from Inclusions/Exclusions to simply read (See Included) or (See Excluded) on pages 23, on pages 23, 30, 31, 93 and 95. This eliminated issues with referring to the wrong line. The Contractor knows to refer back to the Inclusions or Exclusions.
- Changed the Cash Allowance line to “Cash Allowance and/or Contingency funds when a specific dollar amount is listed in Division 01 or this trade’s specification section” in all sections.
- Removed line 40 from the Ventilation Section on page 94. This was a conflict with the correct line 66.
Reminder: The Trade Definitions are a living document and will continue to be periodically improved and updated. Stakeholders will be advised as updates are published.
ACA, its member local construction associations and the 3000 plus member firms endorse adoption of the 2014 Trade Definitions as a best practice. We encourage all tender authorities and their design consultants, specification writers, and contractors and suppliers to cite and utilize the 2014 Trade Definitions for their projects.