Alberta: Recent changes to employment standards

December 11, 2019 | Ian Wilson

In Alberta, recent Orders in Council have continued the United Conservative Party’s ongoing process of amending labour and employment legislation in the Province of Alberta as part of their “Open for Business” regime. We had previously discussed a number of changes introduced with Bill 2: An Act to Make Alberta Open for Business in previous communiques (May 29, 2019, and July 22, 2019).

The Orders in Council introduce two new regulations under Alberta’s Employment Standards Code (the “Code”).

The first, the Employment Standards (Special Provisions) Amendment Regulation, AR 172/2019, introduces a new Division to Part 3 of the Employment Standards Regulation, AR 14/1997 which provides substitute provisions and standards for the Code for specific industries and occupations. This new Division concerns the following three categories of employment:

  • mobile workover or completion service drilling operations;
  • oil and gas continuous operations; and
  • roadbuilding or heavy construction operations.

The substituted provisions contained in the amendment affecting those categories of employment include:

  • increasing allowable hours of work for employees in those categories to 13 or 16 consecutive hours in any work day depending on which type of employment the employee is engaged in;
  • mandating at least 8 consecutive hours of rest for those employees who work more than 12 consecutive hours in one day; and
  • stipulating the required days of rest to be provided to those employed in roadbuilding or heavy construction operations and providing for the potential to accumulate half days of rest depending on length of scheduled work.

Each of those changes likely seeks to account for the nature of typical work schedules in those industries, and should be a welcome reprieve for employers who are often subject to tight timelines and difficult project management.

These changes came into effect immediately.

The second new regulation, the Employment Standards (Budget Implementation) Amendment Regulation, AR 181/2019, is likely in response, in part, to a recent class-action lawsuit filed by former players of the Western Hockey League (the “WHL”). That suit alleged that the WHL had breached employment standards legislation by failing to pay minimum wage.

This regulation codifies that amateur athletes engaged in activities either directly or indirectly related to their athletic endeavours are not employees, and further specifically provides that WHL players, amongst others, are amateur athletes for the purpose of employment standards legislation.

This amendment also amends provisions related to teachers and affects their entitlement to general holidays, general holiday pay, vacation and vacation pay. Specifically, these amendments codify that teachers and their employers are exempt from Part 2, Divisions 5 and 6 of the Code which deal with those entitlements.

Teachers who are party to a collective agreement or employment agreement that provide for specific entitlements will, however, still retain the benefit of those entitlements for a period of time. For those party to a collective agreement or fixed term employment agreement, those entitlements will be maintained until the expiry of those agreements. For those party to an indefinite employment agreement, those entitlements will be maintained for two years following the coming into force of the amendments.

These changes come into effect January 1, 2020.

Miller Thomson will continue to monitor and report on changes made to employment legislation across the country. If you require additional information, please do not hesitate to contact our Labour and Employment team.

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