In A Flash

Alberta Government Passes New Workplace Legislation

June 12, 2017

Alberta Government Passes New Workplace Legislation

On June 7, 2017, Bill 17, otherwise known as the Fair and Family-Friendly Workplaces Act, (the “Act“), received Royal Assent and became law in Alberta.  The new legislation will significantly affect both unionized and non-unionized workplaces in Alberta.  A previous “In a Flash” highlighting key aspects of Bill 17 can be found here.
The passing of the Fair and Family-Friendly Workplaces Act is a development with far reaching cost and operational impacts for employers, including increased regulatory and administrative requirements.  Employers should be sure to familiarize themselves with the new legislation and its requirements to ensure their current practices are compliant.
Labour Relations Code
Most of the Act’s changes to the Labour Relations Code came into force on June 7, 2017.  These changes are now law and are currently applicable to Alberta workplaces. Provisions concerning essential service legislation came into force retroactively, as of May 25, 2017.  The following sections of the Act will come into force at a later date:

  • Provisions concerning the certification, revocation, and judicial review processes will come into force on September 1, 2017; and
  • Provisions applying the Labour Relations Code to farm and ranch employees, as well as the changes concerning dependent contractors, will come into force on January 1, 2018.

Since our last update and before it was passed by the Legislature, the following amendments were made to the Act that are applicable to the Labour Relations Code:

  • The definition of “employee” will explicitly reference “dependent contractors”;
  • Laboratory diagnostic services operating under contract with regional health authorities are included in the essential service provisions of the Act, with the exception of professional corporations under the Health Professions Act; and
  • Section 139 will no longer be removed from the Act. Section 139 allows employees of a party to be a nominee for an arbitration board, except where they are directly affected by the matter (or have been involved in negotiation or settlement attempts).

Employment Standards Code
The majority of the new standards of the Employment Standards Code (sections 6-67) will be in force as of January 1, 2018 for non-unionized workplaces. If a workplace has a collective agreement in force as of January 1, 2018, the new standards will not be applicable until the earlier of January 1, 2019 or the date a new collective agreement is ratified.  Provisions specific to youth employment will come into effect on proclamation, which will likely be later than January 1, 2018.
Since our last update and before it was passed by the Legislature, the Act was amended slightly.  Amendments concerning the Employment Standards Code include:

  • Employees returning from compassionate care leave, death or disappearance of child leave, critical illness of child leave, or long-term illness and injury leave, must give one weeks’ notice of their intended date of return. Previously, 48 hours’ notice had been proposed;
  • The definition of medical certificate under the Employment Standards Code has been modified to allow future regulations to specify health professionals, other than physicians, to be permitted to sign medical certificates for purposes of the Employment Standards Code;
  • Future regulations have the ability to regulate when group termination notices of the Employment Standards Code will not apply; and
  • Employment Standards Appeals may be filed where the Director cancels an Averaging Agreement.

Employers should immediately ensure that they are familiar with the changes made to the Labour Standards Code, as the majority of these changes are now already in force.  For those employers whom are not currently unionized but are facing organizing drives, the new card based certification process, which allows for automatic certification in cases where greater than 65% of employees have signed union membership cards, is of particular importance to understand.  This new process makes it easier for unions to organize, as employees often sign cards under a misunderstanding of their significance.
Additionally, employers have a short period of time to review the new requirements under the Employment Standards Code and to ensure their employment contracts and human resources policies and practices are compliant.
If you have questions regarding the impact of these changes, or steps you can take to reduce their impact, please do not hesitate to contact a Mathews Dinsdale lawyer in our Alberta office.
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