Alberta, Canada: More Job-Protected Leave for Employees
Director of Compliance
In March 2022, Canada’s fourth-largest province, Alberta, reported having close to two million payroll employees and is looking to attract more. Unfortunately, the influx of new workers risks mounting employment standards complaints, especially for employers who do not prioritize compliance.
Alberta’s Employment Standards Code (ESC) establishes the minimum standards of employment most employers in the province must follow.1 These standards include work hours, earnings payments, overtime, vacations, general holidays, youth employment, termination of employment, and job-protected leaves. The ESC seems to be constantly changing, and it has happened again. On May 31, 2022, Alberta’s Labour Statutes Amendment Act, 2022 (Bill 17), received Royal Assent, expanding employee leave entitlements in Alberta in two ways:
In past years, workers employed by the same employer for at least 90 days were entitled to three days of unpaid bereavement leave per calendar year upon the death of a covered family member. Effective May 31, 2022, this leave entitlement was expanded to allow employees to also use bereavement leave when their pregnancy, the pregnancy of their spouse or common-law partner, or the pregnancy of another person ends other than in a live birth (i.e., miscarriage, stillbirth, or abortion). This expansion makes bereavement leave available for employees who are biological and adoptive parents and parents whose children are being carried by gestational carriers/surrogates.
Reservist leave entitlement for annual training is no longer limited to 20 days per calendar year. With the removal of this 20-day leave restriction, employees who have completed at least 12 consecutive weeks of employment with an employer may take as much unpaid leave as needed to participate in reservist training. This amendment makes it easier for employees to fulfill their annual training duties without using other time off, such as vacation or contractual leave.
What is the next step for employers in Alberta?
It is recommended that covered employers review and revise their leave policies and practices to ensure compliance with these new statutory bereavement and reservist leave entitlements. Companies with workers throughout Canada, including U.S.-based employers, should understand that each province and territory in Canada has its own employment standards to comply with and that these standards constantly change. What was right yesterday may be unlawful today. Staying on top of new employment laws and regulations is not easy, especially for multi-province/-territory employers. To stay ahead, consider seeking legal help or use an automated workforce management system to help maintain compliance and ensure success.
1 Federally regulated industries in Alberta are not regulated by the ESC. Instead, they are governed by the Canada Labour Code. A list of federally regulated industries and workplaces in Canada can be found at canada.ca/en/services/jobs/workplace/federally-regulated-industries.html
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