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.

EMPLOYMENT STANDARDS

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.

LABOUR CODE

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

CONCLUSION

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 Mondaq.com.

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

Authors
Events from this Firm
12 Sep 2017, Seminar, Toronto, Canada

Please join us as we take an in-depth look at the legislation and the impact on the industry.

14 Sep 2017, Seminar, Toronto, Canada

Change, stress and uncertainty are ever]present factors in todayfs legal environment, and specific aspects about the practice of law make it difficult to thrive in the profession long term. Luckily, there are specific research]based strategies that have been shown to help lawyers thrive and lead to more effective ways to manage stress and pressure.

5 Oct 2017, Seminar, Toronto, Canada

Blakes is proud to host our New to In-House Series, designed to bring together junior and mid-level in-house counsel for a candid exchange of insights to highlight and address some of the challenges and opportunities facing in-house lawyers in their roles today.

 
In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
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
Password
Confirm Password
Position
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Accounting
 Anti-trust
 Commercial
 Compliance
 Consumer
 Criminal
 Employment
 Energy
 Environment
 Family
 Finance
 Government
 Healthcare
 Immigration
 Insolvency
 Insurance
 International
 IP
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Litigation
 Media & IT
 Privacy
 Real Estate
 Strategy
 Tax
 Technology
 Transport
 Wealth Mgt
Regions
Africa
Asia
Asia Pacific
Australasia
Canada
Caribbean
Europe
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
U.K.
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement

Mondaq.com (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 www.mondaq.com

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 Mondaq.com’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.

Disclaimer

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.

Registration

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 by clicking here .

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 unsubscribe@mondaq.com 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.

Cookies

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.

Links

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.

Mail-A-Friend

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.

Security

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 webmaster@mondaq.com.

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 EditorialAdvisor@mondaq.com.

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 enquiries@mondaq.com.

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