As the evolution of COVID-19 continues to significantly impact workplaces, so too do employers and employees have to continuously adapt to its dramatic and dynamic effects. Acknowledging these unprecedented times, the Alberta Minister of Labour announced that a Ministerial Order will make temporary changes to provisions of the Alberta Employment Standards Code (the "Code") as well as the Employment Standards Regulation. The changes are as follows:
- The maximum length of a temporary layoff will be increased from 60 days to 120 days. This increase applies to any temporary layoff that occurred on or after March 17, 2020.
- We are currently unaware of any restrictions for total maximum days of layoff within a prescribed period of time and are monitoring for further guidance from the regulator.
- The 24 hour written notice requirement for employers to notify employees of a shift change has been removed. The 2 week notice requirement for changes to work schedules for employees under an hours of work averaging agreement has been removed.
- Therefore employers have more latitude with scheduling work.
- Employers are no longer required to provide notice of group termination to affected employees, unions or the Minister of Labour and Immigration when 50 or more employees are being terminated. They now only have to notify the Minister of Labour and Immigration when 50 or more employees are being terminated, as soon as practical.
- The process for obtaining a variance or exemption under the Code will be streamlined to enable employers better flexibility to adapt to rapidly changing working conditions in the coming months as a result of COVID-19 and further public health measures and recommendations.
- Employees who have had to take time off work due to the closure of schools and daycares, or who have had to care for ill or self-isolated family members due to COVID-19, will have the ability to access unpaid job-protected leave. The employee does not have to be employed for 90 days in order to access the leave and the length of this leave is flexible.
Except for the increase to the maximum length of temporary layoffs, which is retroactive to March 17, 2020, the above noted changes are effective April 6, 2020. It is important to note that these changes are temporary and will be in place so long as the public health emergency order remains in effect. As more details become available on the implementation and effects of these temporary changes, our Labour & Employment group will keep employers updated.
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