Changes to the Employment Standards Code

On June 7, 2017, the Government of Alberta passed Bill 17 : The Fair and Family-Friendly Workplaces Act, which updated Alberta’s Employment Standards Code. Many of the changes will come into effect on January 1, 2018.

What does this mean for my business?

The following changes will come into effect on January 1, 2018:

1. Unpaid, Job-Protected Leaves

Changes to existing leaves

  • Maternity/Parental Leave
    • Job protection for maternity leave extended from 15 weeks to 16 weeks
    • Job protection for parental leave remains at 37 weeks (note: this may be increased in the future to align with EI benefits)
  • Compassionate Care Leave
    • Job protection extended from 8 to 27 weeks
    • Notice to return to work reduces to 1 week
    • Requirement for the employee to be the primary caregiver is removed
  • Critical Illness of a Child
    • Applies to the parents of critically ill or injured children
    • Job protection for 36 weeks
    • Bill C-44 expands access to this benefit beyond just parents of critically ill or injured children
  • Long-Term Illness and Injury Leave
    • Long-term illness and injury leave is 16 weeks
    • Requires a medical certificate and reasonable written notice

New leaves

  • Death or Disappearance of a Child
    • Applies to employees whose child disappeared as a result of a crime
    • Job protection for 52 weeks or up to 104 weeks if a child as a result of a crime
  • Domestic Violence Leave
    • Allows 10 days per year to address a domestic violence situation
  • Personal and Family Responsibility Leave
    • Employees can use 5 days per year to deal with personal sickness and family responsibilities
  • Bereavement Leave
    • Allows up to 3 days per year
  • Citizenship Ceremony Leave
    • Can use a ½ day to attend a Citizenship Ceremony on becoming a Canadian citizen

Leave Eligibility

  • All existing leaves other than reservist leave: eligibility period reduced to 90 days

2. Youth Employment

Youth 12 and under

  • Only allowed to work in artistic endeavors with a permit
  • Setting the minimum age for employment at 13 years of age

13, 14, and 15 year olds

  • Only allowed to do ‘light work’
  • Permit would be required for work not on the ‘light work’ list (to be released)
  • Prohibition on ‘hazardous work’

16 and 17 year olds

  • 16 and 17 year olds can work in all occupations except those considered ‘hazardous work’
  • A ‘hazardous work’ definition will be released later
  • Permit will be required to perform hazardous work (with protections/conditions)

3. Other Additions and Clarifications

Rest Periods

  • Minimum of 30 minutes of rest (paid or unpaid) for every 5 hours of consecutive employment
  • May be taken in 15-minute installments

Averaging Agreements Replaced Compressed Work Weeks

  • Replaced with averaging agreements
  • Agreement can have a start and end date that does not exceed 2 years (unless tied to Collective Agreement)

Paying and Banking Overtime

  • Overtime can be paid or it can be banked
  • Overtime is calculated at 1.5x for all overtime hours worked
  • Overtime can be banked for up to 6 months


  • Clarifies the options for employers regarding termination pay when an employee provides more termination notice than required under the Code
  • Employees cannot be forced to use entitlements (e.g. vacation, overtime) during the notice period, unless they agree
  • Termination pay is not based off the previous 13 weeks the employee worked (when the employee’s wages vary one pay period to another)

Group Termination Notice

  • 50-100 employees: 8 weeks
  • 101-300 employees: 12 weeks
  • 301+ employees: 16 weeks
  • Employer must give notice to unions and employees as well (but not for seasonal employment or defined work such as construction)
  • Group termination notice periods apply regardless of the seniority of the affected employees

Temporary Layoffs

  • Limit the maximum length of temporary layoff to 60 days within a 120 day period (unless the employer extends the layoff by providing wages/benefits AND the employee agrees).
  • Length of temporary layoff notice matches termination notice
    • Notice can be waived for circumstances beyond an employer’s control
    • Written notice required for temporary layoff and recall

Vacations and Vacation Pay

  • For the first 4 consecutive years, employees must receive at least 4% of their total wages for vacation pay (and 2 weeks vacation leave)
  • Once employed for 5 consecutive years, employees must receive at least 6% vacation pay (and 3 weeks vacation leave)
  • Can also now take half days


  • Clarifies allowable deductions (e.g. judgement, court order, collective agreement, or those personally authorized in writing by employee)
  • Prohibits deductions for faulty work and cash shortages (e.g. gas-and-dash, dine-and-dash)

General Holidays and General Holiday Pay (GHP)

  • Average daily wage calculation for GHP changes to 5% of wages from the previous 4 weeks the employee worked
  • Employees eligible upon commencing employment—eligibility period removed
  • Removed regular/irregular work day distinction to simplify GHP calculations
  • These changes do not apply if you are subject to a different calculation (e.g. 3.6% for construction and 4.2% for farm and ranch)

Enforcement Provisions

  • An administrative penalty system will address issues where employers are found to be in contravention of the Code
  • With Director’s approval, allow for the publication of information regarding employers in relation to their compliance or non-compliance
  • Expand the time period for 1 to 2 years to begin a prosecution
  • Streamline variance system by establishing clear and enforceable criteria by which permits/variances are issued and by specifying expiration dates
  • Industry exceptions (different than exemptions) will in some cases (not all) be called Minister’s variances
  • Expand the authorities of Employment Standards Officers to improve compliance and the recovery of earnings:
    • Officer authority to direct employers to conduct self-audits
    • Expand the scope of the Director’s authority to third parties
    • Collect outstanding wages or monies owed from a joint bank account
    • Can capture a wider range of entitlements 

What do I need to do?

We recommend that businesses review the proposed reforms by clicking here . The Government of Alberta has rolled out several new products and services to help employers and employees learn the new rules, including instructional webinars which can be viewed here . New information about industry exemptions and youth employment, a revised toolkit for employers, and an updated self-assessment compliance tool will be available on the Government of Alberta website sometime in the coming weeks.


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