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Government to Review Alberta Employment and Labour Laws – You Can Provide Your Input

March 22, 2017

Government to Review Alberta Employment and Labour Laws – You Can Provice Your Input

Last week the Alberta government announced it will review the Employment Standards Code and the Labour Relations Code. The government recognizes that Alberta has changing workplaces and needs to keep pace with other workplace legislation in  Canada. The outcome of these reviews will likely result in changes in the way that Alberta employers have to manage their employees going forward.
In reviewing the Employment Standards Code, which has not been done in about 30 years, the government says that it wants to promote modern, family-friendly workplaces in Alberta, particularly with respect to personal and child-related leaves, overtime, general holidays, deductions from paycheques and group terminations. During the review, the following will be considered:

  • Expanding maternity leave, parental leave, and compassionate care leave to align with federal employment insurance benefits, and reducing qualifying and notice periods;
  • Introducing personal short-term sickness or injury leave based on length of employment;
  • Introducing leave for the care of critically ill children, family responsibilities and personal emergencies;
  • Increasing the overtime banking ratio from 1:1 to 1:1.5;
  • Changing the ‘Compressed Work Weeks’ overtime calculation cycle;
  • Increasing employee rest period requirements;
  • Simplifying, and reducing, the qualification period for general/statutory holidays and pay;
  • Expanding the ability of employers to make deductions from employee pay for defined reasons;
  • Changing the regulations on what jobs young workers can do;
  • Including unions and employees as people to be notified in group termination notices and making the current 4‑week notice requirement longer;
  • Expanding enforcement and punishment provisions to deal with breaches of the legislation; and
  • Introducing specific criteria to be used when considering applications for a permit to modify or provide an exemption from certain standards (criteria could include evidence that the majority of affected employees support the proposed terms of the permit and verifying that the employer does not have a history of employment standards violations).

Well known and experienced Labour Arbitrator Andrew C.L. Sims, QC, will support and oversee The Labour Relations Code review, which the government says will focus on ways to make the Code fairer, more balanced and effective. The review will:

  • Consider whether to mandate a Rand formula in collective agreements;
  • Assess the processes allowing employees to choose, change or cancel union representation in a timely and effective way;
  • Evaluate the appropriateness of reverse onus provisions;
  • Consider whether to update “employer” and “employee” definitions to reflect Alberta’s current workplace environments;
  • Consider the options available for resolving difficult to deal with disputes, including unresolved first contracts, proven unfair labour practices, or the failure to maintain essential services that may lead to public emergencies;
  • Evaluate whether to broaden the Alberta Labour Relations Board’s mandate to enable adjudication of a wider range of workplace disputes; and
  • Improve the Alberta Labour Relations Board’s powers, procedures and remedial options for faster dispute resolution, grievance arbitration, flexible mediation, available remedies reflective of labour relations realities, and fair representation in collective agreement matters.

The proposed changes will require employers to re-evaluate their workplace policies and practices, and some changes could result in reduced flexibility and increased costs for employers.
Input from the Public on the proposed changes can be submitted until April 18, 2017. We encourage employers to participate in the reviews by sharing their views and concerns. Feedback on the Employment Standards Code will be accepted in two ways. You can provide a written submission or complete the government’s online survey. You will find information on both here. Input on the Labour Relations Code must be sent directly to the Workplace Policy and Legislation Alberta Labour office. The information on how to do this can be found here.
If you have any questions about how these changes might impact your organization, or if you would like our assistance participating in the review process, please contact a Mathews Dinsdale lawyer.
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