The Government of Alberta recently introduced Bill 32: Restoring Balance in Alberta’s Workplaces Act, 2020, which received royal assent on July 29, 2020. Bill 32 includes significant amendments to the Employment Standards Code and the Labour Relations Code. The Government of Alberta claims these amendments “will provide employees and employers with clearer and more transparent rules promoting fairness and productivity, including more clarity about rest periods and temporary layoff notices”.

The Bill 32 amendments include:

Employment Standards Code

1.      Increased non-COVID-related temporary layoff period: increase from maximum of 60 days within a 120-day period to maximum of 90 days within a 120-day period and remove specific timing requirements for notice of a layoff. COVID related layoffs will remain limited to 180 days. Comes into force August 15, 2020.

2.      Consolidation of group termination notice periods: single notice period of 4 weeks for all terminations of 50 or more people in a 4-week period. Comes into force August 15, 2020.

3.      Extension of time to provide termination pay: lengthened period for provision of termination pay to employees so that employers do not have to deviate from their regular payroll schedules.

4.      Transition from averaging “agreements” to averaging “arrangements”: ability for employers to impose hours of work averaging on 2 weeks’ notice without employee consent.

5.      Broadening of averaging period: increase of maximum hours of work averaging period from 12 weeks to 52 weeks.

6.      Elimination of permit requirement for certain youth jobs: would apply to jobs where 13 and 14 year olds were consistently approved for permits, such as light janitorial work, coaching, and tutoring.

7.      Alteration of general holiday pay calculation: shift from calculation incorporating employee wages, general holiday pay, and vacation earned to “average daily wage” calculation.

8.      Expansion of employer ability to deduct employee earnings: deductions for overpayment of earnings and excess vacation pay would be allowed without employee consent for up to 6 months after the overpayment occurred.

9.      Reduction of mandatory rest periods: elimination of mandatory 30-minute rest period within or immediately after first 5 hours of work.

10.  Clarification of vacation calculation: time spent on job-protected leave would be included in the calculation of vacation entitlement.

Labour Relations Code

1.      Requirement for unions to provide annual financial statement to members: to be provided as soon as possible after the end of the union’s fiscal year.

2.      Introduction of “opt-in” dues for certain union activities: members would no longer be required to pay union dues related to political activities, social causes, charities, NGOs, or organizations affiliated with or supportive of a political party.

3.      Restriction of picketing: obstructing or impeding a person who wishes to cross a picket line would be deemed a wrongful act, and picketing at locations other than the normal place of employment (i.e. secondary picketing) would require Board approval.

4.      Elimination of employer “reverse onus” for certain types of complaints: employer’s “reverse onus”, currently applicable to all unfair labour practice complaints, will only apply to cases of employee discharge and employee dismissal.

5.      Reinforcement of first contract arbitration as a “last resort”: introduction of criteria that will limit the circumstances where the Board can order first contract arbitration.

6.      Enhanced flexibility of collective agreement renewals: reinstatement of the ability to renew collective agreements prior to expiry.

7.      Extension of certification and revocation timelines: timelines introduced in the 2017 amendments would be removed and replaced with a 6-month deadline for the Board to make its final decision.

8.      Removal of arbitrators’ power to extend timelines: arbitrators no longer have the ability to extend mandatory timelines contained within a collective agreement grievance procedure.

9.      Removal of requirement for arbitrators to make decisions with regard to principles of Canadian labour arbitration: arbitrators would only have to make decisions in accordance with the Labour Relations Code.

The above summarizes only a portion of the proposed Bill 32 amendments. To view Bill 32 in its entirety and track its progress, click here.

Bill 32 is being implemented in stages. The Employment Standards Code amendments take effect on November 1, 2020, with the exception of amendments related to group termination notice, temporary layoff length, and application for variances, which take effect on August 15, 2020.

The Labour Relations Code amendments took effect upon Bill 32 receiving royal assent, with the exception of certain specified amendments that would take effect upon proclamation. For more information on Bill 32 and its timelines, click here.

Contact our Labour and Employment Team for more information about Bill 32 and its potential impact on your business or employment situation.

Disclaimer: This article is to be used for educational and non-commercial purposes only. Parlee McLaws LLP does not intend for this article to be a source of legal advice. Please seek the advice of a lawyer before choosing to act on any of the information contained in this article.