21 Feb How Bill 17 Will Affect You
Many businesses are unaware of how the recent introduction of Bill 17 in Alberta will impact their business, their benefits, and compensation for all employees. The Fair and Family-Friendly Workplaces Act came in to effect 1 Jan 2018 with the intention of modernizing provincial workplace law.
Bill 17 largely brought Alberta on par with other provinces in terms of labour standards. In some cases, the standards that have been introduced raised the bar for employment standards compared with other provinces.
Here’s how the Bill could impact your benefits plan:
Benefits during a layoff: Does your business lay off employees from time to time due to seasonal work or normal business cycles?
Your insurance contract outlines benefits eligibility during a period of temporary layoff.
For example, some Great West Life contracts stipulate that benefits must cease 6 months after the leave or layoff starts unless the employer is required to provide insurance beyond that date. The exception to this rule is maternity or parental leave.
- If you are contemplating continuing benefits during layoff or the employee is entitled to a leave, ensure that your insurance contract allows benefits to continue throughout the leave or layoff period.
- Note that if employees pay part or all of the premiums for health and dental benefits, the employer is not required to continue benefits during a statutory leave period.
Unpaid protected leaves: Employees are now eligible for protected leaves once they have worked with an employer for 90 days (reduced from 52 weeks under the prior legislation).
- Employers should ensure that internal disability policies reflect this new eligibility period.
New protected leaves have been added to the legislation, and some leaves have been modified. For example, unpaid job protection for parental leave has been extended to 62 weeks. And there are new guidelines in place for maternity leaves when pregnancy ends in a miscarriage or stillbirth.
Some insurers currently limit continuation of coverage to 12 months – even in the case of maternity leave.
- Contracts should be updated to ensure that the benefits provisions align with legislative requirements.
Employees are now entitled to a new unpaid leave called Long-Term Illness and Injury Leave. This provides up to 16 weeks of job protection per year for long-term personal sickness or injury. This aligns with the federal Employment Insurance Program.
- Ensure that you and your employees understand how your disability insurance program, federal Employment Insurance, and this new leave work together.
Termination notice when intending to terminate more than 50 employees
If you are planning on terminating more than 50 employees at a single location within a 4-week period, there are new extended periods of notice depending on the number of employees affected.
- During notice periods, benefits utilization may increase as employees anticipate the loss of coverage and try to maximize coverage. This increase in the amount of notice period may increase the cost of insured benefits.
- Familiarizing yourself with the changes to the Employment Labour Standards could help protect you against unwanted scrutiny or legal action in the event of a wrongful termination.
Please visit the Alberta Government website for more information and be sure to obtain legal, accounting, tax, or other specialist advice where applicable as Vital Partners is providing general guidelines to these legislative changes.
We’re happy to help if you need a hand understanding your benefits plan provisions.