Alberta’s NDP Government to shake up the province’s workplace legislation.
The Employment Standards Code (Employment Standards) and the Labour Relations Code (Labour Code) will be the subject of a brief public consultation (closing April 18, 2017) before the government assumes its review, and rolls out the significant primary changes to Alberta’s workplace laws not seen in decades.
As a matter of interest, Alberta’s workplace laws have remained the same for close to 30 years, while apparently provincial governments elsewhere in Canada have responded more quickly and readily to the changing dynamics of what the face of a modern workforce could, or should be.
Employment Standards and the Labour Code govern everything with respect to the employment relationship in Alberta’s workplaces (outside of federally regulated firms, and in addition to human rights and privacy legislation). The Labour Code regulates union work, and Employment Standards covers the non-union labour market.
The government says the forthcoming changes to Alberta’s workplace laws are actually “modest” and “not a full-scale review“. Still, many employers are most concerned about the consequences, particularly given the NDP’s policies for extending workers’ benefits, in addition to its long-standing union ties.
Employment Standards sets the minimum standards to which employers must adhere, including standards for hours of work and overtime requirements, vacation, maternity and paternity leave, general holidays and termination.
The government has not specified the precise changes it intends to make to Employment Standards. However, based upon a review of the government’s online consultation, employers may see the introduction of all, or any, of the following:
- An increase in protected leaves (i.e., maternity, parental and compassionate care) and a reduction of employee tenure to realize eligibility for such leaves;
- The creation of new unpaid protected leaves for personal short-term illness or injury, personal emergencies, and family responsibilities;
- Changes to align protected leaves with the federal employment insurance program;
- An increase in the banked overtime rate from 1:1 to 1:1.5 (i.e., employees can receive 1.5 hours of time off for each 1 hour of overtime banked);
- Changes to the calculation of all compressed work week arrangements;
- Stricter requirements on employers to give a mandatory paid or unpaid 30-minute break to employees for each five consecutive hours of work;
- An increase in the instances that employees are entitled to general and Stat holiday pay;
- Changes to the calculation of employee’s average daily wage;
- New deductions from employee wages wherever the employee agrees to such deductions and receives a direct benefit in return (i.e., health and insurance packages, pay advances, meals, and lodging);
- An increase in the opportunities for youth between 13 and 15 to gain employment;
- New requirements on employers to notify the Minster of Labour when undertaking a group termination of 50 or more employees at one site within a four-week period (i.e., possibly including a notification to the affected employees and unions, not just the Minister); and
- Enhanced tools for the government to enforce Employment Standards legislation, including the introduction of administrative and progressive penalties, increased fines, greater authority for employment standards officers, and publicly posting firm names that fail to satisfy judgments, or prove ongoing non-compliance.
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