20 Jun New Alberta Employment Standards – Quick Summary of May 2018 Session
Our workplaces have evolved since Alberta’s employment standards code was last updated in 1988. Growth in part-time jobs, shift work, and flexible schedules were some of the driving factors behind Bill 17, Alberta’s new employment legislation, which came into effect on January 1, 2018.
Our May 10, 2018 Vital Partners education session featured a panel discussion with Jill Wilkie of Miller Thomson, Leah Fochuk of Salopek & Associates, and Jennifer Kirby of Vital Partners. Attendees of the session submitted their burning questions to the panel which made for some interesting discussion.
Here is a summary of some of the topics that were discussed:
Bill 17 introduced several new job-protected leaves and reduced employees’ eligibility period from one year of employment to 90 days. There are several considerations to keep in mind with respect to benefit plan eligibility during protected leaves such as:
- Your HR policy should ensure that benefits during any leave are handled consistently to avoid anti-selection.
- Check with your insurer which benefits can be extended during a leave. For example, some insurers will not extend travel insurance or disability coverage during a leave.
- If disability or critical illness insurance is not maintained, plan members should be aware that the pre-existing condition limitation may be reset when they return to work.
General Holiday Pay
Effective 1 January, most employees are eligible for general holiday from the first day of employment, calculated at a rate of 5% of wages, holiday pay, and vacation pay earned in the 4 weeks preceding the general holiday.
- Employees are eligible for pay regardless of the day on which the holiday falls (even if they never work on Mondays, they are still eligible for holiday pay on Mondays).
- Boxing Day, Easter Monday, and Heritage Day (first Monday in August) are not considered holidays in Alberta. But if you as the employer designate those holidays as a general holiday, then general holiday pay applies.
- Useful resource: https://www.alberta.ca/employment-standards-self-assessment-tool.aspx
The treatment of overtime that may have been included in employment agreements signed prior to January 1, 2018 would now be considered void. Overtime rules apply to most employees with the exception being some supervisory and managerial positions.
- Employers must pay employees 1.5X regular hourly rate or provide banked overtime at a rate of 1.5X
- In some workplaces, there may be a temptation to give employees a title of “manager” to exempt them from overtime rules. This can backfire in that it could have an impact on severance pay if a terminated employee could claim that they would not be able to replace the status and income of their previous employment. Make sure you’re only calling employees managers if they really are managing!
Flexible Work Arrangements
Previously called Compressed Work Weeks, these did not previously have a maximum averaging period. Bill 17 introduces two new types of averaging agreements: Hours of Work Averaging Agreements (HWAA) and Flexible Averaging Agreements (FAA).
- Through a HWAA or FAA, an individual employee or a group of employees may average their hours worked over a specified period. This includes allowing for longer hours of work per day paid at the employee’s regular wages. These agreements must be mutually agreed upon, documented, and signed.
- These agreements are one of the levers that employers may be able to use in reducing the impact of paying overtime at a higher hourly rate.
In preparing for this session with our panelists, we all considered the ease with which an employee can file a complaint against an employer. We wanted to provide some additional resources you may find helpful in ensuring that your organization is on side.
- Employment Standards: Alberta.ca/employment-standards
- Duty to Accommodate: albertahumanrights.ab.ca
- Employment Insurance Maternity and Parental Benefits: canada.ca
- Pregnancy, Childbirth and Adoption albertahumanrights.ab.ca
- Canada Labour Code: laws.justice.gc.ca
- Occupational Health and Safety & Code: work.alberta.ca