Canada: Overhaul Of Alberta's Workplace Laws Now Underway

Significant changes to Alberta's workplace laws are coming. On May 24, 2017, the Alberta government introduced Bill 17, the Fair and Family-friendly Workplaces Act (Bill 17), which proposes the biggest changes to Alberta's Employment Standards Code (Employment Standards) and Labour Relations Code (Labour Code) in decades. It will affect all provincially regulated employers and most of the amendments are expected to be passed into law on January 1, 2018.

Some of the proposed changes, including the banking of overtime at increased rates and a flurry of new measures to promote, enhance and strengthen union activity in Alberta, may be controversial. The provincial government is likely to emphasize fairness and families as the debate surrounding Bill 17 unfolds, since a number of the proposed changes may be perceived as less favourable to Alberta employers. The most noteworthy changes are summarized below.


Leaves of Absence

A number of new unpaid leaves will be created for the following situations:

  • Long-term illness and injury (up to 16 weeks per year)
  • Personal and family responsibility (up to five days per year)
  • Bereavement (up to three days per year)
  • Domestic violence (up to 10 days per year)
  • Citizenship ceremony (half-day to attend a citizenship ceremony)
  • Critical illness of a child (up to 36 weeks)
  • Death or disappearance of a child (up to 52 weeks where the child disappears as a result of a crime or up to 104 weeks if the child dies as a result of a crime)

Bill 17 also modifies and expands many of the leaves that are already in place:

Compassionate Care:

  • Extended from eight to 27 weeks
  • Caregiver status to include non-primary caregivers
  • Notice to return to work reduced to 48 hours from two weeks

Maternity and parental leave:

  • Maternity leave extended from 15 to 16 weeks
  • Parental leave remains at 37 weeks, but may be increased in the future

Notably, employees will be eligible for current and new leaves after just 90 days of employment (rather than one year as is presently the case). Many of these changes are being made in order to align with federal employment insurance benefits.

Overtime, Compressed Work Weeks and Rest Periods

Overtime agreements will allow for time to be banked for six months (instead of three months). Moreover, the calculation of overtime banking will be expanded from a ratio of 1:1 to 1:1.5. As a result, employers will be required to grant 1.5 hours off for each hour of overtime worked. Such a change does away with the advantage offered to employers by the banking of overtime (employers were previously able to offer one hour for every overtime hour worked rather than paying overtime pay equal to 1.5 time wages).

Compressed work week arrangements (allowing for more working hours in a day at the employee's regular wage over a compressed period) will be renamed "averaging agreements" and will now require the support of the majority of affected employees (or be part of a collective agreement).

Employers will also be required to provide employees a minimum 30-minute break for every five hours of consecutive work (rather than a 30-minute break during each shift in excess of five consecutive hours of work).

Terminations and Temporary Layoffs

Employers will be prohibited from requiring employees to use vacation or banked overtime during the notice of termination period unless otherwise agreed to.

Bill 17 will also impose relatively onerous requirements on employers to notify the minister of labour of group terminations at a single location within a four-week period. Presently, employers are required to provide four weeks' written notice. That notice requirement will now increase by an amount that depends on the number of employees being terminated: eight weeks' notice for 50-99 employees; 12 weeks' notice for 100-299 employees; and 16 weeks' notice for 300 or more employees. Not only does this require employers to be more diligent, it also increases the likelihood of diminished productivity since workers will have a much longer "heads up" that their employment will be terminated.

Temporary layoffs that exceed 60 days (in total) within a 120-day period will amount to termination of employment, unless otherwise agreed to between the employer and the worker (i.e., the employee has agreed to the payment of wages and/or benefits during the temporary layoff period).

Statutory Holiday Pay

Aside from clarifying how holiday pay is to be calculated, Bill 17 also grants eligibility for statutory holiday pay to all employees (i.e., workers no longer need to be employed for 30 days in order to be eligible for statutory holidays).

Youth Employment

A number of changes are also being considered with respect to youth employment, including elevating the minimum working age from 12 to 13. The government also intends to create a list of allowable "light work" that youth under 16 can do (i.e., accommodation and food services). Employing youth in a job not on the list will require a permit. The government is also contemplating the establishment of a list of "hazardous work" and prohibiting youth under 16 from working in jobs on that list (16 and 17-year-olds can only do hazardous work with a permit).

Enforcement and Administration

Bill 17 would also create a new administrative penalty system to fine employers who contravene Employment Standards. In addition, it would extend the period in which the government could bring a prosecution against an employer from one to two years.

Appeals will no longer by heard by umpires (provincial court judges) but instead by members of the Labour Relations Board (Board).

Farm and Ranch Workers

Farm and ranch workers (except for family members) will no longer be entirely exempt from Employment Standards.


Unsurprisingly, the proposed changes to the Labour Code are geared towards enhancing union powers and increasing union involvement in Alberta. Some of the most notable changes including the following:

Card Checks and Union Certification

Bill 17 proposes that Alberta adopt a hybrid card-check system in order to certify new trade unions. This is likely to have significant ramifications for union organization in Alberta. Where a union has 65 per cent or more support (as shown by workers signing cards or being members in good standing), the union can become the certified bargaining agent without a secret ballot vote taking place. If between 40 and 65 per cent of employees sign cards, then a secret ballot vote will be conducted. Where union support is shown by way of a petition, a vote will be required.

Most unions in Canada support card-check systems because secret ballots are less likely to result in union representation. The move to a card-check system (even a hybrid one) could escalate unionization in Alberta. Card checks also have the potential to create difficult working environments as union organizers and workers wanting union representation may influence their colleagues to sign cards. Another issue under the card-check system is that employers are less likely to be aware of union campaigns while they are taking place. As a result, unions tend to be the single or dominant source of information and workers may not always be given a balanced picture before electing to support a union.

Bill 17 will also extend the allowable period for union campaigns from 90 days to six months. As a result, unions can now apply for certification long after employees have applied for membership. During the period between an employee signing a card and the union applying for certification, it is possible that employees will change their mind about unionization but, as a result of moving to this hybrid card-check system, they may not have the chance to cast their vote through a secret ballot.

Firm timelines are also being imposed to ensure that certifications are dealt with promptly (20 days from the date of application or 25 days in situations involving a mail-in ballot).

First Contract Arbitration

First contract arbitration will now be available to employers and unions upon application to the Board. This will allow a union to have a first collective agreement imposed on an employer if the union is unsuccessful in bargaining over the course of 90 days. The Board will also have new, wide-ranging powers to direct the parties on next steps (i.e., tabling of final proposals, mediation, ordering votes). Failing a satisfactory outcome, the Board will also be empowered to require binding arbitration of a first collective agreement.

Rand Formula

The inclusion of a Rand formula in collective agreements mandates that dues be deducted from employee pay and remitted to the union. Currently the inclusion of such a clause is negotiated by the parties during bargaining. However, it will now be imposed in all collective agreements upon a union's request.

Unfair Labour Practices

Employers will now have the onus of disproving that an unfair labour practice occurred rather than an employee being required to prove that such conduct occurred. The introduction of this reverse onus provision will make it easier for employees to challenge employer actions such as discipline or dismissal.

The Board will also be empowered to grant a union automatic certification without a vote where an employer is found to have engaged in an unfair labour practice. Similarly, the Board may revoke a union's certificate without a vote where a union is found to have engaged in an unfair labour practice.

Expanding the Labour Code's Reach

Farm and ranch workers (except for family members) will now be able to unionize. Similarly, the definition of "employee" is being expanded to include dependent contractors, which will allow such individuals to collectively bargain with other employees.

Increased Board and Arbitrator Powers

The Board will now have the power to require documentary production in advance of a hearing, deferring disputes where other remedies may be available and prohibiting parties from making the same (or similar) applications. The Board will also be able to order the arbitration of a dispute where it deems an unfair labour practice is occurring.

Union representatives will be granted access to an employer's worksite for the purposes of organizing or carrying out union business, where the Board requires it.

Significantly, arbitrators will be able to extend the time available to grieve a matter even if the time to do so has expired under the applicable collective agreement. Arbitrators will also be given a broad range of powers to expedite proceedings, make interim orders and resolve disputes.

Other notable changes include:

  • Unions will have the explicit right to picket the secondary premises of an employer as well as locations of third parties helping an employer resist a strike
  • The Board will no longer be able to suspend the deduction and remittance of union dues when an illegal strike is taking place
  • Essential services will be expanded to include health care laboratories, blood supply services and continuing care facilities (including those that are non-profit and privately owned)
  • Construction workers no longer need to be employed for 30 days before participating in a union certification vote
  • Appeals from arbitration decisions will be heard by the Board (not the courts) and appeals from Board decisions will proceed directly to the Court of Appeal


Few changes to Bill 17 are expected given the government's majority in the legislature. As a result, employers will soon face many new challenges including compliance and administrative issues, as well as broader strategic considerations.

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
23 Nov 2018, Other, Toronto, Canada

Cybersecurity, including data privacy and security obligations, has become a critical chapter in every company’s risk management playbook.

28 Nov 2018, Speaking Engagement, Toronto, Canada

Arbitration has a number of advantages and some disadvantages for the resolution of domestic and international commercial disputes.

Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
In association with
Related Topics
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Related Articles
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
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

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 or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq 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 of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

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