Carscallen Blog

Alberta Government introduces temporary changes to employment standards legislation

Posted by Carscallen LLP on Apr 9, 2020 11:05:43 AM

Written by Catherine A. Crang, Q.C., Suzanne M. Porteous, and Hema Ahuja

The Alberta Minister of Labour and Immigration enacted Ministerial Order 18.2020 (“Order”) on April 6 that will introduce temporary changes to the Employment Standards Code[1] (the Code”) and the Employment Standards Regulation[2] (the Regulation”) in order to help businesses further respond to COVID-19.

Maximum time for temporary layoffs increases to 120 days

The maximum time period for temporary layoffs[3] (previously discussed in our blog here) will now be increased from 60 days to 120 consecutive days.

This change will give employers additional time before a temporarily laid off employee is deemed to be terminated (and thus entitled to termination pay and potentially other entitlements from the employer).

This change is retroactive to March 17, 2020 for temporary layoffs that have already occurred on or after March 17 and were COVID-19 related.

Changes to group termination provisions

The requirements for employers to comply with the group termination notice provisions for any group termination of 50 or more employees[4] are being removed, such that employers are no longer required to provide notice of group terminations to employees and unions when 50 or more employees are being terminated. Employers must still, as soon as practicable in the circumstances, notify the Minister of Labour and Immigration when 50 or more employees are being terminated.

New job protected leave

A new unpaid job protected leave of flexible duration has been created for employees who have to take time off work to:

  • take care of a family member who is under quarantine due to COVID-19; and
  • take care of a child due to school and daycare closures as a result of COVID-19 effective March 16, 2020.

Employees taking time off under this form of leave are exempt from the requirement to be employed for 90 days by the same employer. However, if requested by the employer, the employee must provide their  employer with documentation reasonable in the circumstances, at a time that is reasonable in the circumstances, that the employee is entitled to the leave. “Documentation” does not require a medical certificate.

This new form of leave is effective as of March 17, 2020.

changes to the application process for a variance or exemption

The Order will also simplify the application process for variance applications for permits in order to accommodate COVID-19 related requests from employers.[5] 

This simplified process will allow for an application for variance or exemption to:

  • the hours of work of an employee being confined to a period of 12 consecutive hours within a work day;[6] 
  • notice of work times;[7]
  • rest periods for employees;[8]
  • days of rest for employees;[9]
  • extending the averaging period to no longer than 26 weeks;[10]  and
  • reducing the minimum hours of pay to not less than 30 minutes but not more than 2.5 hours.[11]

Applications for a variance or exemption under sections 74 or 74.1 of the Code that are made by an employer, group of employers, or an employer association impacted by COVID-19 no longer require the Director to consider factors that were previously required to be considered.[12] 

Other changes introduced by the Order

The Order will also temporarily:

  • suspend the requirement that an employer must notify an employee of a shift change with at least 24 hours’ written notice[13];
  • suspend the requirement for changes to averaging agreements to be made with at least two weeks’ written notice[14]
  • instead in both instances, notice must be given as soon as is practicable in the
Carscallen LLP’s Employment Law Expertise

We understand that the rapid emergence of COVID-19 means that many employers and employees are dealing with a myriad of legal issues. Please contact us if you have any legal questions in connection with COVID-19, or any other legal employment matters. Our lawyers routinely work remotely and will continue to do so during this time. We remain available to provide legal advice and guidance to clients for all issues that may arise during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Please visit our COVID-19 resources page for further updates.

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*This update is intended for general information only on the subject matter and is not to be taken as legal advice.


[1] Employment Standards Code, RSA 2000, c E-9 [Code].

[2] Employment Standards Regulation, Alta Reg 14/1997 [Regulation].

[3] Code, s. 63(1).

[4] Code, s. 55(1)(a); s. 137(1).

[5] Code, s. 74; Regulation, ss. 43.85-43.87.

[6] Code, s. 16.

[7] Code, s. 17.

[8] Code, s. 18.

[9] Code, s. 19.

[10] Code, s. 23.1.

[11] Regulation, s. 11(1).

[12] Regulation, s. 43.86(3); s. 43.87(1).

[13] Code, s. 17(2).

[14] Regulation, s. 13.33(1).

Topics: Employment, Labour and Human Rights Law, Covid-19

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