The Alberta government tabled Bill 17, the Fair and Family-friendly Workplaces Act, on May 24, 2017, and it received Royal Assent on June 7. The statute makes a number of significant changes to both the Alberta Employment Standards Code and Labour Relations Code. All of the changes, except for the amendments relating to youth employment, came into force on January 1, 2018.

The following is a summary of some of the most noteworthy changes in both pieces of legislation but is not an exhaustive review. If you have any questions or concerns regarding the legislative changes contained in the Fair and Family-friendly Workplaces Act, please contact a member of Parlee McLaws’ Labour and Employment team for further information.


Some of the most significant changes to the Employment Standards Code (“ESC”) involve updates to leave benefits as well as scheduling / mobilization of employees.

Leave Benefits

In general, all employees are entitled to the various types of leave provided for under the ESC after 90 days of employment rather than the previous 1 year requirement.

  • Compassionate Care Leave → Job protection is extended to 27 weeks from 8 weeks, and caregiver status is extended to non-primary caregivers as well. In addition, while employees must provide two weeks’ notice to commence a leave, the notice required to return to work from a leave has been reduced to 48 hours.
  • Parental Leave → Leave is extended to 16 weeks from 15.
  • Long Term Illness and Injury Leave → Subject to obtaining a medical certificate, employees are now entitled to up to 16 weeks of leave per calendar year due to illness or injury.
  • Bereavement Leave → Employees are entitled to 3 days leave per year due to the death of a family member.

Compressed Work Weeks, Overtime, and Pay Rates

  • Compressed Work Weeks → Groups of employees may now enter into “averaging agreements” under which they are permitted to average their hours of work over periods ranging from 1 to 12 weeks. These agreements cannot last for more than 2 years and cannot allow for work days in excess of 12 hours or work weeks in excess of 44 hours.
  • Banked Overtime → Overtime is now banked at 1.5 times an employee’s wage, instead of at straight time under previous legislation. Further, overtime can be banked for up to 6 months rather than 3.
  • Minimum Wage → The government will no longer provide permits to employers allowing them to pay disabled workers less than minimum wage. All permits currently in place will be voided.
  • Holidays and Holiday Pay → The requirement that an employee work at least 30 days in the 12 months preceding a holiday is removed as well as the distinction between regular and non-regular days of work. Further, holiday pay is now calculated as 5% of wages, general holiday pay, and vacation pay earned in the preceding 4 weeks.
  • Vacations and Vacation Pay → Employees are now due 4% or 2 weeks of their total wages as vacation pay until they have 5 years of service after which time the entitlement will increase to a minimum of 6%. Half-day increments are now permitted.

Termination and Temporary Layoffs

  • Termination Notice → Termination pay is now calculated on the previous 13 weeks an employee actually worked, rather than the calendar weeks preceding termination. Employers are no longer able to compel employees to use up entitlements, such as vacation or overtime, during a notice of termination period.
  • Temporary Layoffs → Written notice of a temporary layoff will now be required. The notice must set out the effective date of the layoff and the applicable ESC provisions.

As a whole, the changes to Alberta’s Employment Standards Code increase the minimum working standards in the Province. While many workers are already employed in conditions far better than the minimum standards, these changes introduce increased costs and administrative burdens for employers. Further, increased overtime entitlement and leave benefits may result in some employers scrambling to implement changes to their existing policies.


Certification and De-Certification

Certification of a union no longer requires a secret ballot vote so long as the representative trade union can demonstrate that they have support from at least 65% of the bargaining unit’s workforce. Further, the expiry for union cards obtained during an organizing campaign will be extended from 90 days to 6 months.

The de-certification process remains substantially the same, but the timelines involved are significantly tighter. Of note is the fact that a secret ballot vote is still required to effect a de-certification.

Essentially, certification is now easier and de-certification is somewhat more difficult.

The Bargaining Unit

The new legislation allows, on application, dependent contractors to be included in the bargaining unit as employees – this will affect new certifications as well as existing ones. Employees on farms and ranches, previously excluded from the regime, are now eligible for certification.

Allied Employer Sites

Striking workers are now permitted to picket at work sites other than their own so long as the site in question is a site the employer uses to further a lockout, to resist a strike, or sites where a third party assists the employer in doing so.

Again, these are significant changes and will impact the operations of many unionized and non-unionized employers in the Province.  The extent of the impacts of these changes will become clearer in the coming months.