In A Flash

Bill 2 – An Act to Make Alberta Open for Business Receives Royal Assent – New Changes Expected to Benefit Employers

The highly anticipated Bill 2: An Act to Make Alberta Open for Business (“Bill 2”) introduced on May 27, 2019, received Royal Assent on July 18, 2019.

Along with the Employment Standards (Minimum Wage) Amendment Regulation, which took effect in June of this year, Bill 2 will roll back a number of employment and labour relations changes made under the province’s NDP government in 2017 – many of which will benefit Alberta employers.

Our previous “In a Flash”, dated May 28, 2019, available here, reviewed the proposed changes introduced by Bill 2. With Bill 2 receiving Royal Assent, the changes and their implementation are further discussed below:

Employment Standards Code Changes

A number of changes to the Employment Standards Code and its regulations are now, or will soon be in force.  Many of these changes will be welcome news to Alberta employers, including the following:

Reduced Minimum Wage for Youth
As a result of prior amendments to the Employment Standards Regulation, the minimum wage for student employees has been reduced, as follows (effective as of June 26, 2019):

  • the minimum wage for all students under the age of 18 and attending a secondary, post-secondary, or vocational school was reduced from $15.00 per-hour to $13.00 per-hour for the first 28 hours worked in a week;
  • for any hours worked over 28 hours in a week, the student-employee must be paid at least $15.00 per-hour; and
  • during spring break, Christmas or winter break, or summer vacation, student-employees will receive $13.00 per hour for all of their hours worked.

Holiday Pay
Beginning September 1, 2019, general holiday pay calculations will again distinguish between circumstances in which a general holiday occurs on a regular workday, and where it occurs on a day an employee is not regularly scheduled to work.

Additionally, in order to be eligible for general holiday pay, an employee must have worked at least 30 days within the 12 month period before the general holiday.

Overtime Pay
Also effective September 1, 2019, overtime will again be eligible to be banked at a 1:1 rate under an overtime agreement.  Currently, overtime must be banked at the rate of 1.5 hours for each overtime hour worked, as a result of amendments to the Employment Standards Code implemented by the previous government.

This change eliminates the need for Flexible Averaging Agreements.

Labour Relations Code Changes

Significant changes to the Labour Relations Code are now in force, with some having retroactive effect to May 27, 2019.

Union Certification – Representation Votes
Automatic certification, without a representation vote, is no longer allowed in Alberta.  Bill 2 restores the requirement that all certification votes happen by secret ballot.  This ensures that the majority of employees at a workplace are actually in favour of union representation before a union secures bargaining rights.

This change is retroactive to any certification application filed on or after May 27, 2019.

Union Certification – Membership Evidence
Union membership cards – the primary method by which a union shows initial support of employees for purposes of obtaining a representation vote, are now valid for a period of 90 days following the date they are signed by an employee.  This period had been previously extended to 6 months, which resulted in considerably longer organizing campaigns and resulting disruption on business operations.  This change is also retroactive to May 27, 2019.

Marshalling Provisions
The “marshalling” provisions in the Labour Relations Code have also been strengthened. The Alberta Labour Relations Board (“the Board”) now has the ability to make directions concerning employee matters, which also involve matters that could fall under the jurisdiction of other administrative regimes. This includes the ability to direct issues be heard, or stayed, in a particular forum.

The Board’s increased marshalling powers allow for the better streamlining of employment disputes and lessen the risk of the duplication of complaints in multiple forums (such as labour relations, employment standards, human rights, workers’ compensation, grievance arbitration, and/or privacy disputes).

Employee Assistance and Support
By October 1, 2019, the Government of Alberta will have a program in place to help employees better understand and exercise their rights under the Labour Relations Code, the Police Officers Collective Bargaining Act, the Public Education Collective Bargaining Act, and the Public Service Employee Relations Act. More information is expected to be available to the public closer to the program’s launch.

Further Changes in the Future

Other anticipated Labour Relations changes are expected to be tabled in Fall 2019. We believe these changes will address issues such as the current ban on replacement workers in the public sector, and the controversial use of union dues to fund political parties and causes without employee consent.

While it was not announced, we also expect to see changes to the Occupational Health and Safety Act in Fall 2019. Stay tuned for more details as they become available.

A copy of Bill 2 can be found here.

Implications for Employers

The changes brought about by Bill 2 undo many of the NDP’s changes to two of Alberta’s most important pieces of workplace legislation.  Employers should review existing business practices both to ensure compliance, and to ensure they are taking advantage of the new flexibility which the legislation offers.

If you have any questions regarding the impact of any upcoming changes to Alberta’s workplace laws, or reviewing your policies in light of these new changes, please do not hesitate to contact a Mathews Dinsdale lawyer.

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