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Recap of changes proposed by Alberta to modernize workplace legislation

Jurisdiction: - Alberta
Sector: - All

Set out below are some of the key changes that will be made to Alberta's Employment Standards Code and Labour Relations Code if Bill 17 - the Fair and Family-friendly Workplaces Act, is passed.

The bill was introduced by the Alberta government on May 24, 2017, one day after Ontario released the final report in its "Changing Workplaces Review" which proposes amendments to Ontario's Employment Standards Act, 2000 and Labour Relations Act, 1995.

The proposed changes to Alberta's legislation are, according to the government, the result of previous government reviews as well as broad consultations with Albertans, employers, business organizations, labour organizations, municipalities, academics, and advocacy groups. The government states that more than 7,000 submissions were received. Alberta's Employment Standards Code and Labour Relations Code were both last updated in 1988.

In introducing the changes, the Alberta Minister of Labour, Christina Gray, stated:

"All Albertans deserve to be treated fairly at work. Modern and balanced workplace laws protect the rights of Albertans, support their families and help businesses stay competitive. Updates and improvements to Alberta's labour legislation are long overdue. The proposed changes ensure Albertans have the same rights as other Canadians while also supporting a strong economy. They respect the important balance of our labour relations system and will make our standards more family-friendly."

Notable proposed changes set out in Bill 17 are as follows:

  • Improve and align maternity leave and compassionate care leave with federal policies:
    • Maternity leave would be extended by one week to 16 weeks.
    • Compassionate care leave would be extended from eight weeks to 27 weeks.
  • Guarantee job protection for new unpaid leaves, including:
    • Long-term Illness and Injury Leave (16 weeks)
    • Personal and Family Responsibility Leave (five days)
    • Bereavement Leave (three days)
    • Domestic Violence Leave (10 days)
    • Citizenship Ceremony Leave (half-day)
    • Critical Illness of a Child Leave (36 weeks)
    • Death or Disappearance of a Child (52 weeks when a child disappeared as a result of a crime, or up to 104 weeks when a child died as a result of a crime)
  • It would set the eligibility period for all job-protected leaves at 90 days of employment.
  • Remove a provision that allowed employers to apply for a permit to pay persons with disabilities less than minimum wage.
  • Raise the minimum age of work to 13 in accordance with the International Labour Organization's Convention 138 on youth employment.
  • Modernize existing standards such as overtime, vacation pay and termination notice.
  • Introduce stronger enforcement, including administrative penalties when warranted, for contraventions of the Employment Standards Code.
  • Introduce access to first contract arbitration to assist parties in successful bargaining and improved dispute resolution methods under the Labour Relations Code.
  • Simplify union certification and decertification processes.
  • Expand essential services to continuing care operations.
  • Enhance the rights of waged, non-family farm and ranch workers while protecting the family-farm way of life.