What Is the Employment Standards Code?
The Employment Standards Code sets out the minimum rightsthat Alberta employees are entitled to receive, including; minimum wage, hours of work, overtime, and vacation pay. The Code is administered by the Employment Standards Branch, which is part of the Alberta Ministry of Immigration and Employment.
Does the Employment Standards Code Apply to Me?
The Employment Standards Code applies to most employees in Alberta. It applies to full-time, part-time, casual, commissioned and salaried workers, and students. However, the sections of the Code relating to hours of work and overtime do not apply to certain employees, including domestic workers, farm and ranch employees, salespersons, or managers. The Employment Standards Code does not apply if you are employed by the federal government, or in a business that is federally regulated, such as airlines, chartered banks, railways, radio, television and cable stations, post offices, interprovincial trucking companies, and grain elevators. If you are employed by a federally regulated company, your minimum employment rights are set out in the Canada Labour Code.
What if I Am Covered by a Union Collective Agreement?
The minimum standards established by the Codes apply to collective agreements. A collective agreement provides group benefits for all employees who are employed under that collective Agreement. Generally, a collective agreement will provide more benefits than the basic benefits under the Codes. It is the duty of the Trade Union to represent all employees equally with respect to their entitlements. If you have concerns you should contact your Union representative as a first step. If your concerns are not dealt with through the Union, you should contact the Workers’ Advocate for the Province of Alberta whose number will be found in the Blue Pages of the Telephone Directory.
Is There a Minimum Wage?
Yes. The provincial government regularly sets a minimum wage which must be paid by employers to their employees. Your employer must not pay you less than the minimum wage unless you are within a special group of employees, such as disabled persons and children, and your employer has a permit to allow him or her to pay you those lower wages. Without the permit, your employer has no right to pay you less than minimum wage. Effective September 1, 2011, the minimum wage is $9.40 per hour for most employees.
Should I Receive Payment for Overtime?
The hours you work beyond eight hours a day or forty-four hours a week, whichever is greater, are considered overtime hours. Overtime hours are paid by the employer at a rate of one-and-a-half times your regular hourly rate. You may receive time off work instead of overtime pay if you and your employer agree to this arrangement in writing. The time off will be equal to the number of hours of overtime that you worked. Your employer must give you the time off instead of overtime within three months of the end of the pay period when you earned the overtime. If you do not take the time off before the end of three months, your employer must give you overtime pay at the end of your next pay period.
Does My Employer Have to Give Me a Statement of Earnings?
At the end of every pay period your employer must provide each employee with a statement of: the hours worked, the wage rate, the wages paid, any overtime paid or “time off ” given in place of overtime, any vacation pay received, any general holiday pay, severance pay, and all deductions for the pay period that the statement covers.
Am I Entitled to Rest Periods?
You cannot be required to work more than twelve consecutive hours in any one day. Generally speaking, with some exceptions, employees must receive a half-hour rest period, which could be paid or unpaid, during each shift in excess of five consecutive hours of work. The Code does not provide for coffee breaks. An employer must provide at least one day of rest in each week. Rest days may be accumulated up to four weeks and given as consecutive days off within this four-week period.
What About Vacations and Vacation Pay?
After one year of employment, you are entitled to a minimum of two weeks of vacation each year. After five consecutive years of employment, you are entitled to a minimum of three week’s vacation each year. You are also entitled to receive vacation pay. Your employer must provide your vacation pay no later than the pay day after you take your vacation. Hourly paid employees are entitled to four percent of their regular wages for vacation pay, and 6% after five consecutive years.
You are entitled to take your annual vacation in one unbroken period (in other words, one or two full weeks). However, you can request to take your vacation in periods of not less than one day at a time, by providing a written request to your employer. Your employer has final approval of the dates when your annual vacation can be taken.
What Other Holidays Am I Allowed?
There are nine statutory holidays or General Holidays in every year and every employee is allowed these holidays. The General Holidays are New Year’s Day, Family Day, Good Friday, Victoria Day, Canada Day, Labour Day, Thanksgiving Day, Remembrance Day, Christmas Day, and any other day designated by the employer or by regulation. With some exceptions, if you are required to work on a General Holiday, you must receive your daily wage plus payment of one and a half times your hourly wage for each hour worked (i.e. time and a half). Instead of the time and a half holiday pay, your employer may give you your regular pay plus another working day off with pay. If a General Holiday falls on a day that is normally your day off, your employer will pay your regular wage for that day and you are entitled to another day off at your regular wage. If a General Holiday occurs during your vacation period, you are entitled to receive an extra day of paid holiday. If you are employed in the construction industry or as a camp counselor, the General Holiday pay regulations may be different. Check with your local Employment Standards Branch for more information.
Termination of Employment
The Code sets out minimum notice requirements for both employers and employees. If you resign from your employment, you are required to give your employer at least one week’s notice if you were employed for at least three months. You are required to give your employer at least two week’s notice if you were employed for two years or more. If your employer does not schedule you to work during the notice period, you are still entitled to receive the wages that you would have earned over the notice period.
In most cases, if your employer terminates your employment, your employer must give you written notice of termination based on the number of years that you have worked. The notice periods required under the Code are:
- One week if employed more than three months but less than two years
- Two weeks if employed two years but less than four years
- Four weeks if employed four years but less than six years
- Five weeks if employed six years but less than eight years
- Six weeks if employed eight years but less than ten years
- Eight weeks if employed over ten years
Your employer cannot reduce your wages during the notice period.
Your employer may give you severance pay instead of notice of termination. Your severance pay must be equal to the wages that you would have earned over the notice period. Your employer is not required to explain why your employment was terminated. Your employer is not required to give you notice under certain circumstances, including: if you have worked for less than three months, if there was a contract specifying the end of the employment, if you are employed in certain kinds of construction work, if you are temporarily laid off, if the contract of employment has become impossible for the employer to perform by reason of unforeseeable circumstances beyond its control or, if your employer has “just cause.” If your employment is terminated, you also have legal rights through the Court system. Your employer is required to give you reasonable notice of termination unless it has “just cause.” The length of time that is considered reasonable depends on how long you have worked for the employer, your position, and your age. In the case of a long-term employee, the Court may set a notice period of twelve to eighteen months.
“Just cause” means that the employer had a valid reason to terminate your employment, based on serious misconduct. Conduct that would be considered “just cause” for termination includes theft, fraud, dishonesty, and unexplained absences. The Code prohibits your employer from terminating your employment while you are on maternity/parental leave, or because your wages have been garnished by one of your creditors. Also, you cannot be dismissed from your job based on discrimination, as discussed in the chapter on Rights. Other work-related topics (such as sexual harassment, equal pay and employment equity) are also discussed in that chapter.
Contact your Employment Standards office or a lawyer if you have any further questions.
How Can I Collect Unemployment Insurance?
You can receive unemployment benefits (or EI benefits) if you have paid into an EI account and are unemployed. There are four types of benefits: regular, maternity/parental, sickness, and compassionate care benefits. Regular benefits are available to provide temporary financial assistance to you when you become unemployed. You can qualify for regular benefits if: (1) you lost your employment through no fault of your own, (2) you meet the minimum number of weeks of employment prior to applying for EI (the “qualifying period”), and (3) you are willing and able to work each day. For most workers, the qualifying period is between 420 to 700 hours. For most employees in Alberta, the qualifying rate is 700 hours. EI benefits go as high as to 55% of your weekly earnings, to a maximum of $468 per week. Income tax will be deducted from these earnings. You are entitled to receive EI benefits for fourteen to forty-five weeks, depending on the regional rate of unemployment where you live, and how long you worked prior to applying for EI benefits.
You can earn up to $50 per week while receiving EI benefits. Any earnings will be deducted from your EI benefits. You should apply for EI benefits as soon as you stop working. If you delay in filing your application, you may lose some of the benefits that you are entitled to receive. Contact the Canada Employment Insurance Commission for more information.