BILL 32: Restoring Balance in Alberta’s Workplaces 

Uncategorised - August 12, 20 - Sajitha Nair

On July 7, the Government of Alberta passed Bill 32 “Restoring Balance in Alberta’s Workplaces Act, 2020“. These changes come into force over the next several months. 

Bill 32 proposes a number of significant changes to the Employment Standard Code that will impact unionized and non-unionized environments. Highlights of the noteworthy changes are in areas including:  

  • Termination Pay 
  • Holiday Pay and Deductions 
  • Temporary Layoffs 
  • Hours of Work – Averaging Arrangements 
  • Vacation Time 
  • Employee Breaks 

Key Changes for Employers

Termination Pay

Under the new legislation, the Employer now has more time to pay an employee’s final pay. Employees must receive final pay no later than the following: 

  • 10 consecutive days after the end of the pay period in which they were terminated, or 
  • 31 consecutive days after the last day of employment 

This will benefit employers by allowing them to pay an employee’s final pay in accordance with their normal pay schedule. These changes will reduce the cost of having to process specialty payments. 

Holiday Pay and Deductions

The new “average daily wage” would average the employee’s total wages over the number of days they worked in either the: 

  • Four weeks immediately before the general holiday; or 
  • Four weeks ending on the last day of the pay period that occurred before the general holiday. 
  • If an employer overpaid an employee, employers can now make deductions from employee earnings without the employees’ consent. They can deduct an overpayment due to a payroll error or for vacation pay paid in advance once notice is given to the employee. 

Temporary Layoffs

Before COVID-19, a temporary layoff is deemed to be a termination of employment was 60 days within 120 days. Now, this has been extended to 90 days within a 120-day period. The maximum layoff period for temporary layoffs related to COVID-19 is to remain at 180 days. 

Previously, employers were required to provide notice to employees for a temporary layoff. This requirement has been removed. 

Hours of Work – Averaging Arrangements

An averaging agreement is an agreement between an employer and employee that allows an employer and employee to average the number of hours worked over one, two, three or four weeks, and eliminates the need to pay overtime for the hours covered by the agreement.  

Now, the Employment Standards Code refers to it as Averaging Arrangements instead of Averaging Agreements which means:  

  • Employers can start or change an hour of work averaging arrangement by giving employees 2 weeks’ notice, rather than getting employees’ consent first. 
  • Arrangements could have an averaging period of up to 52 weeks. 
  • Arrangements will no longer need to have an end date. 
  • Employers can negotiate with employees how to handle schedule changes or missed shifts, but employees must get 8 hours of rest between shifts if there is a schedule change. 
  • Employers do not have to provide daily overtime unless daily overtime is included as part of the arrangement. 
  • Weekly overtime threshold applies, regardless whether daily overtime is included in the arrangement or not. 

Vacation Time

Under Bill 32, employees can continue to accumulate vacation time while they are on a job-protected leave of absence. 

Employee Breaks

The change to the legislation enables employers and employees to have greater flexibility to agree on the employee’s rest period schedule, provided that the schedule still complies with the legislation’s minimum requirements. 

  • Employees would need to work for five hours before qualifying for a 30-minute break. 
  • For shifts between five and 10 hours, at least one 30-minute break would be required. 
  • For shifts of more than 10 hours’ length, two 30-minute rest periods would be required. 
  • Rest periods can be paid or unpaid and can be broken down into two 15-minute breaks instead of one 30-minute block. 

Next Steps

Changes in the Employment Standards Code will take effect November 1, except for the following changes which will take effect August 15: 

  • changes to the requirements around group termination notice 
  • length of temporary layoffs 
  • flexible rules to apply for variances 

Employers must look back at their own policies to understand how these changes will affect their obligations as an employer/company. Please note that the content of this article is only intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Legal/Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.  

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