Canada: Alberta Government Introduces Changes To Employment Standards And Labour Relations Legislation

This afternoon the Alberta government introduced amendments to the Employment Standards Code and the Labour Relations Code. These amendments are expected to pass in the next week or so before the Legislature recesses for the summer. We don't expect that there will be a lot of changes, if any, during the passage of the amendments in the Legislature.

We were present at the lock-down briefing where a summary of the changes was provided. Once we review the detailed Bill, we might notice refinements, limitations, omissions, misunderstandings of the briefing, etc. and in that event we will provide a supplementary analysis. This should therefore be seen simply as a preliminary heads-up about what is coming.

Employment Standards Code Changes

There will be a number of changes coming into force on January 1st which will impact all Alberta employers governed by the Alberta legislation:

Unpaid Leaves of Absence

A number of unpaid leaves will be introduced to broadly align with Employment Insurance coverage provisions. Employees will have to be employed for only 90 days in order to be eligible for them.

  • Compassionate Care leave
    • Will expand from 8 weeks to 27 weeks.
    • Will be available to more than the primary care giver.
    • The period of notice of return to work will be reduced from 2 weeks to 48 hours.
  • Maternity/paternity leave
    • Eligibility will expand from 15 to 16 weeks.
  • Parental leave
    • Eligibility will expand from 37 weeks to 52 weeks.
  • Long term illness/disability leave
    • Eligibility for up to 16 weeks.
    • Medical certificate and reasonable notice required.
  • Death or disappearance of a child leave
    • Eligibility for up to 52 weeks if child disappeared due to crime.
    • Eligibility for up to 104 weeks if child died as a result of a crime.
  • Critical illness of a child leave
    • Eligibility for up to 36 weeks leave.

A number of other unpaid leaves of absence will be mandated:

  • Personal and family responsibility leave: up to 5 days/year
  • Bereavement leave: up to 3 days/year
  • Domestic violence leave: up to 10 days/year
  • Citizenship ceremony leave: ˝ day to attend ceremony.

Youth Employment

Significant changes will be coming on the topic of youth employment after further consultations with the public.

  • The minimum working age will increase from 12 to 13 unless a permit is obtained and the activity is an artistic endeavor.
  • 13,14 and 15 year olds will only be allowed to work in "light work". That term will be defined by regulation after consultations with the public.
  • 16 and 17 year old cannot be employed in any hazardous activity without a permit. "hazardous activity" will also be defined by future regulations.

Hours of Work

Hours of work provisions will be changed to significantly restrict management's flexibility:

  • 30 minute rest periods will be mandated for every 5 hours. There are currently a number of exceptions which will apparently be removed.
  • Compressed work weeks will require collective agreement or, when there is no collective agreement, majority consent. They currently do not.
  • It will be possible for overtime agreements to allow for the time off in the next 6 months, not just 3 as it is now. However, employers will have to allow 1 ˝ hours off for each hour of overtime worked. That will significantly curtail the practice of some workers who want to work extra one day or week to get time off when they want it later. Employers will be far more reluctant to allow that when the cost is 1 ˝ not one hour for one hour.

Layoffs/Termination of Employment

  • Currently, termination notice is not required if a layoff is only 60 days. This 60 days will be confined in future although the extent was not made clear.
  • The legislation will clarify the rights of the employer once an employee gives notice of resignation.


It appears that there will be a change in what the vacation pay will be based on i.e. more than the basic wage.

  • Employees will be entitled to 4% of total wages and two weeks for service up to 5 years.
  • Employees will be entitled to 6% of total wages and 3 weeks' vacation after 5 years of service.

Deductions From Wages

  • In the briefing, the department said that the new legislation would clarify what can be deducted without express written authorization. Currently, not even errors in pay can be unilaterally corrected by taking away from an employee's earnings.

Statutory Holiday Pay

  • You will no longer have to be employed for one year before you are eligible for statutory holidays.
  • You will be entitled to statutory holiday pay even though it is not a regular work day for you. For example, if a statutory holiday is on a Monday and the employee only works Tuesdays to Thursday, currently he is not legally entitled to statutory holiday pay.


  • All current permits will remain in force but the department wants to move to having more covered by regulations which makes sense from a transparency and consistency perspective.


  • The department says that the new legislation will bring in an administrative penalty system to punish non-compliant employers.

Employment Standards Appeal

  • Appeals are currently heard by Umpires who are Provincial Court judges. The legislation will apparently allow for the process of moving these appeals so that they will be heard by the Labour Relations Board.

Farm and Ranch Workers

Farm and ranch workers are currently exempt from the Code. They will not be under the new legislation:

  • Family members will be exempt but others will be covered.
  • Farm and ranch workers will be exempt from hours of work and overtime.
  • Farm and ranch workers will be entitled to either straight time pay or a day off in lieu of a holiday.

Labour Relations Code ("LR Code") Changes

There will be various transitional provisions on changes to the LR Code. They were not specified in the briefing although they could be very important.

The following changes are the highlights:


  • Secret ballot votes will no longer be mandated if the union has 65% support as shown by proof of support in the prior 6 months or membership in good standing.
  • Secret ballot votes will be mandated if the union's support is between 40 and 65% and in the discretion of the Labour Relations Board (LRB) in other cases.
  • If the union support is shown by a petition then a vote is mandated.
  • New rules will impose strict time limits to ensure certifications are dealt with in 20 days from start to finish (unless a mail-in ballot in which case it will be 25 days).
  • Similar rules will apply to revocation applications except they will have to be by petition so that a vote will be mandated in every case.

Farm and Ranch Workers

  • They will be covered by the LR Code so that workers can choose unionization.
  • Family members will be exempt from any involvement.
  • A public emergency sufficient to stop a strike will include harm to livestock or irreversible damage to crops.

Dependent Contractors

  • Confirming what is probably already the current LRB practice, dependent contractors (as opposed to independent contractors) will be covered by the LR Code. The difference between the two categories will be based on economic dependence and workplace control. This designation will supposedly be independent of tax considerations.

Rand Formula

  • Mandatory deduction and remittance of union dues will be required whenever an employer is certified by a trade union. Currently, that is open for negotiation.

LRB Procedures

  • The Board will be directed to give priority in scheduling to job loss cases.
  • The Board will be given broader powers to mandate document production at an early stage of hearings.
  • The Board will be given even broader remedial powers.

Reverse Onus

  • Employers will have the onus to prove their innocence if it is alleged that they disciplined or discharged someone because of union membership or involvement.

Unfair Labour Practice Remedies

  • The LRB will be mandated to do whatever is fair and equitable to remedy a breach (except it will expressly be prohibited from imposing penalties or acting punitively). Remedies will include a power to order arbitration of a dispute.
  • The Board may direct that a union is certified without majority support when, due to employer actions, a fair vote is impossible. This has not been an LRB remedy since 1988. The wording of the provision will be important.

Remote Site Access

  • The LRB will be able to require that a union be given access to private property to organize or to conduct union business.
  • A union who represents employees will be given reasonable access to employer premises and accommodation for carrying out their duties.

First Contract Arbitration

  • The post-certification freeze on altering terms and conditions of employment will expand from 60 to 120 days.
  • Unions can apply for LRB help if they cannot get an agreement in 90 days. The LRB will then have broad powers to mediate, oversee bargaining, force the tabling of last offers, order votes, etc.
  • The LRB will be able to order arbitration of a first collective agreement. The details of when they can do that will be important.

LRB Power to Marshal Disputes

  • Details are unclear but the LRB will be given the power to marshal disputes so that unions and employers don't have to fight disputes in 2, 3 and 4 different forums. This could be a positive development for employers.

Appeals of Labour Arbitration Decisions

  • Instead of judicial review applications, appeals of arbitration decisions will go to the LRB with appeals from there to the Court of Appeal (with leave to appeal being required).

Arbitrator Powers

  • Arbitrators will be given the power to extend time limits. That is troubling because employers have often fought very hard to get mandatory time limits and unions have also benefited from being able to reduce the number of duty of fair representation complaints against them because of time limit issues.
  • Arbitrators will be given the express power to grant interim orders, mediate, expedite.
  • Arbitrators will be given the express power to determine breaches of other labour statutes. Alberta arbitrators have sometimes done that already even without that express power.

Essential Services

The legislation will be expanded to cover:

  • Continuing care sector
  • Health care labs
  • Blood supply services

This will be a very significant change for some of these employers.

Secondary Picketing

  • Secondary picketing will be expressly authorized. Unions will be able to picket secondary sites and allies of the employer subject to the ability of the LRB to regulate it. This is an expansion on the current situation which was not that expansive.

Duty of Fair Representation Complaints

  • Unions will be required to have appeal procedures (either internal or external). The theory is that that will reduce the number of duty of fair representation complaints which are now clogging the LRB.

Market Enhancement Recovery Fund Prohibitions and Salting Rules

  • Will be removed.

These two areas were covered quite clumsily in changes in the legislation some years ago but their removal will give the green light to both salting and "merf"ing.


  • Both parties will be more clearly required to file their collective agreements with the Ministry.
  • Window periods for raiding by other unions will be reported in some fashion. This is supposedly to help unions raid each other which is a curious thing to promote.

International Unions

  • International unions and sister unions of unions caught by construction registration will be prohibited from working around registration collective agreements. This is to solve a perceived problem with the actions of one of the international construction unions who tried to enter into a direct deal separate from its Alberta Local.

Suspension of Union Dues

  • The powerful LRB remedy of being able to authorize the suspension of dues deduction and remittances in illegal strike situations will be removed. It was used at least once at considerable cost to one of Alberta's unions as a sanction for illegal strike activity.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Events from this Firm
19 Dec 2017, Webinar, Calgary, Canada

McLennan Ross previously conducted a webinar on June 6, 2017 about the passage of Bill 17, during which we reviewed the changes to the Employment Standards Code and the Labour Relations Code. During that webinar, we identified a number of issues which would depend upon the language of the Regulations, which had not yet been developed.

8 Jan 2018, Seminar, Calgary, Canada

This year, the Labour and Employment Year in Review seminars will be held in Edmonton, Calgary and Yellowknife, with the Yellowknife seminar also being broadcast via webinar for those in the North who are not able to attend in person.

5 Feb 2018, Webinar, Calgary, Canada

Please join Teresa Haykowsky and MaryAnne Loney for a 90 minute webinar where they will discuss alternate forms of executive compensation from an employment and tax law perspective.

In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:
  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.
  • Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.
    If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here
    If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here

    Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

    Use of

    You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


    Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

    The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


    Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

    • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
    • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
    • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

    Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

    Information Collection and Use

    We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

    We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

    Mondaq News Alerts

    In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


    A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

    Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

    Log Files

    We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


    This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

    Surveys & Contests

    From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


    If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


    From time to time Mondaq may send you emails promoting Mondaq services including new services. You may opt out of receiving such emails by clicking below.

    *** If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here .


    This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

    Correcting/Updating Personal Information

    If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

    Notification of Changes

    If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

    How to contact Mondaq

    You can contact us with comments or queries at

    If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.

    By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions