Changes to Alberta’s Employment Standards Code

Stringam LLP. Alberta's Regional Law Firm

A number of significant amendments to the Alberta Employment Standards Code will occur on January 1, 2018. The amendments are part of Alberta’s Bill 17: The Fair and Family Friendly Workplaces Act. As such, the changes affect only those Alberta workplaces not governed by federal law (Canada Labour Code).

The changes to the Employment Standards Code came about as a result of input from stakeholders and nearly 5,000 online survey responses.

A reminder to business owners and human resources managers: some of the changes to the Employment Standards Code may necessitate amending your employees’ contracts of employment to ensure compliance with the changes.

“Hours of Work and Rest”

  • Maximum work day of 12 hours.
  • 30 minute break every 5 hours (must be paid if employee is required to remain at work during the break).


  • Those employees eligible to receive OT will earn 1.5 times their normal rate of pay for each hour worked over 8 hours per day or 44 hours per week (the 8/44 rule).
  • OT is paid at the end of pay period in which it is earned.
  • Instead of paying OT, the employer and employee can agree to allow the employee to bank earned OT. Previously, all OT was banked at “straight time” (each hour of OT worked was banked as an hour). Now, all banked OT hours will be banked at 1.5 hours for each hour worked. Employees must use banked OT within 6 months (previously, 3 months).

“Averaging Agreements will replace Compressed Work Week Agreements”

  • Compressed work week agreements will be phased out. They will remain valid until the earlier of January 1, 2019 or the termination of the agreement.
  • “Averaging Agreements” will replace compressed work week arrangements. Such agreements must be in writing and signed by employer and employee. Will allow an averaging of an employee’s hours over a period of 1 to 12 weeks; if the hours exceed an average of 44 hours per week, the employee will be entitled to OT pay at 1.5 times for those hours.

“Minimum Wage”

  • General minimum wage will increase to $15.00 per hour on October 1, 2018.

“Holiday Pay”

  • All employees are entitled to holiday pay at the time of hiring (the 30-day eligibility period will no longer apply).
  • Employees are entitled to general holiday pay even if it falls on a day that is not a normal work day.

“Compassionate Care Leave”

  • Employees will now be eligible to take compassionate care leave to care for a critically ill family member after only 90 days of employment, not 52 weeks.
  • The length of such leave will extend from a maximum of 8 weeks to 27 weeks.

“Maternity Leave”

  • Employees will now be eligible to take maternity leave after only 90 days of employment, not 52 weeks.
  • The length of such leave will extend from 15 weeks to 16 weeks, to account for a waiting period to collect Employment Insurance.
  • Paternal leave has been extended from 37 weeks to a maximum of 62 weeks.

“Other Leaves”

  • Death or disappearance of a child leave – 52 weeks of unpaid leave for employees whose child has disappeared as the result of a crime; or 104 weeks of unpaid leave if the child died as the result of a crime.
  • Domestic violence leave – up to 10 days of unpaid leave for victims of domestic violence.
  • Personal and family responsibility leave / critical illness of a child leave / long term illness and injury leave – all provide extended unpaid leaves that were not previously available.


  • The minimum probationary period is now 90 days, not 3 months.
  • Employers are prohibited from requiring employees to use vacation and banked overtime during a termination notice period.

” Temporary Lay Offs”

  • The length of temporary layoffs is now a maximum of 60 days within a 120-day period.
  • Previously, layoffs ended after 60 consecutive days.


  • The limitation period for filing a complaint with Employment Standards will increase from one year to two years.

Darren Schmidt is a lawyer at Stringam LLP’s Lethbridge and Fort McMurray offices. He maintains a focus of employment and labour law and has a pre-law background as a human resources practitioner.

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