Last week the Alberta Government introduced Bill 17, the Fair and Family-friendly Workplaces Act to update the employment standards and labour relations acts. Highlights include;
- Changes to how banked hours’ work. Under the new legislation hours must be banked at 1.5 times hours worked essentially removing the benefit of banking over straight overtime. Increased banked time from 3 months to 6 months.
- Enhanced protected leave status for many categories including maternity, compassionate care, and family leaves. Reduced the eligibility for leave to 90 days of employment. New Personal and Family Responsibility of 5 days per year as unpaid time off, but with protected status. This covers personal sickness, short-term care of family, or school events of a child.
- Compressed work weeks would now be called Averaging Agreements and would allow for 1 to 12 week averages to determine overtime eligibility.
- Rest periods would now be a minimum 30-minute break (paid or un-paid) for every 5 hours of consecutive employment. With employer and employee agreement, these can be split to two-15 minute breaks.
- All employees would be eligible for general holiday pay, removing regular vs non-regular work day. It would be calculated at 5% of wages from previous 4 weeks.
- Vacation pay to be set at 4% or 2 weeks until 5 years’ employment and will rise 6% afterwards. Half-day vacation increments now allowed up from minimum of 1 day.
- Termination and layoff notices will now require more notice. For 50-100 employees: 8 weeks, 101-30 employees: 12 weeks, and 301+ employees: 16 weeks.
- Nurseries, greenhouses and sod farms will continue to not be considered farms under the Employment Standard Code (we have requested an explanation from the Minister).
- Easing of rules/regulations around formation of a union. This includes automatic certification when more than 65% of employees sign a union card or petition and that the first contract can be arbitrated if an agreement can’t be reached.
There are several areas of concern for members. First, the change to banked hours’ program is especially impactful to seasonal (weather dependent) businesses. The removal of this option will equally effect both employees and employers. The new Averaging Agreements might provide some relief, but it is too early to tell without the exact regulations in place. The removal of secret ballot requirement for formation of a union (still applies to 40-65% of employees voting in favour) is a cause for a concern as it removes democratic rights from the process.
Landscape Alberta will be communicating with the Minister of Labour directly over the coming weeks. We will also help provide resources regarding the changes in a way for employers to best update their own policies and practices. The new rules and regulations are anticipated to take effect January 1, 2018.