New labour laws coming to Alberta

Published juin 2, 2017

On May 24, the Alberta Government tabled Bill 17, the Fair and Family-friendly Workplaces Act. This legislation includes changes to Employment Standards and the Labour Relations Code, which take effect Jan. 1, 2018.

Some changes will impact small businesses and the hospitality industry, but overall, the changes aren’t as drastic as we had feared. Thank you to all members who supported Restaurants Canada’s call to action and the Keep Alberta Working campaign. Your support helped us stop more damaging legislative changes. Get the full story on our action here.

The changes

Here are the legislated changes of most interest to members:

Employment Standards

General Holiday Pay

  • All employees are now eligible for general holiday pay.
  • No longer any distinction between regular and non-regular days before and after the general holiday, to qualify. (Currently, employees must have worked their last scheduled shift before the general holiday, and first scheduled shift after the holiday, to qualify. Only employees who worked for an employer for a minimum of 30 days in the past year before the general holiday, qualified.)
  • General holiday pay of 5% of wages from previous four weeks worked before the holiday must be paid.


  • Overtime agreements would allow time banked for six months, rather than three.
  • Overtime banking would be calculated by multiplying all hours worked by 1.5, rather than hour-for-hour currently.

Vacation Pay

  • Employees must be paid 4% or two weeks of their total wages as vacation pay for first five years of employment, after which they must receive at least 6%.

Rest Periods

  • Employees require a minimum 30-minute break (paid or unpaid) for every five hours of consecutive employment.

Youth Employment

  • With the exception of artistic endeavours, youth under the age of 13 are not allowed to work.
  • Ministry will consult to modernize list of allowable “light work” jobs for youth under 16. New list will be reviewed and updated every three years.

Job-protected Unpaid Leaves – Eligibility

  • Employees would be eligible for current and new leaves after 90 days, rather than one year.

 Maternity/Parental Leave

  • Job protection for maternity leave extends from 15 to 16 weeks to account for the one-week waiting time for federal Employment Insurance benefits.
  • Job protection for parental leave extends from 37 to 52 weeks to align with proposed federal Employment Insurance benefits.

 Compassionate Care Leave

  • Job protection extends from eight to 27 weeks to better align with federal Employment Insurance benefits.
  • Caregiver status extends to include non-primary caregivers.

New, Unpaid Leaves

  • Long-Term Illness and Injury Leave – Provides up to 16 weeks of job protection per year for long-term personal sickness or injury. Medical certificate and reasonable notice would be required. This would align with the federal Employment Insurance program.
  • Personal and Family Responsibility Leave – Provides up to five days of job protection per year for personal sickness or short-term care of an immediate family member. Includes attending to personal emergencies and caregiving responsibilities related to education of a child.
  • Bereavement Leave – Provides up to three days of job protection per year for bereavement of an immediate family member.
  • Domestic Violence Leave – Provides up to 10 days of job protection per year for employees addressing a situation of domestic violence.
  • Citizenship Ceremony Leave – Provides up to a half-day of job protection for employees attending a citizenship ceremony.
  • Critical Illness of a Child – Provides up to 36 weeks of job protection for parents of critically ill or injured children. This would align with the federal Employment Insurance program.
  • Death or Disappearance of a Child – Provides up to 52 weeks of job protection for employees whose child disappeared as a result of a crime, or up to 104 weeks if a child died as a result of a crime. This would align with the federal Employment Insurance program. 

Enforcement and Administration

  • An administrative penalty system will be implemented for employers found to be in contravention of the Employment Standards Code.


Labour Relations Code

Union Certification

  • Card Certification is automatic if card check signatures reach 65% of employees. If card support is 40 to 65%, a secret ballot vote is required within 20 working days.
  • Decertification process would mirror the certification rules.

 Unfair Labour Practices – Reverse Onus

  • In unfair labour practice complaints involving discipline, dismissal or other alleged intimidation of an employee, the employer has to prove his or her actions don’t constitute an unfair labour practice, rather than requiring the employee to prove that it does.

First Contract Arbitration

  • First Contract Arbitration would be put in place to end difficult negotiations between an employer and a newly-certified union.

 Definition of Employer/Employee

  • The definition of employee changes to include dependent contractors who only work for one employer. Contractors can unionize and bargain collectively.


Get the full list of changes.

Restaurants Canada will keep you updated on what the new legislation means for your business. Please contact our Western Canada Vice-President Mark von Schellwitz with questions or comments.


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