April 23rd, 2018

Business Beat: More clarity on new employment standards

By Medicine Hat News on March 21, 2018.

The new employment standards came into effect Jan. 1 and my December went over some of the changes. Questions are still surfacing regarding the regulations, particularly relating to averaging agreements, leaves and youth employment standards, to name a few. Through our continued work with Alberta Labour, we’ve been able to obtain additional information and updates for greater clarity for employers and have included a summary on just a few of the updates we have received.

Q. There is still a need for clarification on averaging agreements and how they are applied.

A. The website has since been updated to provide greater clarity on averaging agreements: http://www.alberta.ca/averaging-agreements.aspx. Examples of averaging agreements will be available on the website in the upcoming weeks, but are also available through the updated employer toolkit.

Q. If an employee generally works less than eight hours a day or 44 hours a week (perhaps 6 or 7.5 hours per day or 30 to 37.5 hours per week) can they be permitted to take any extra time over their regular hours, but before overtime hours kick in (8/44), and bank that at straight time at a time of their choosing — outside of the 2 week Flexible Averaging Agreement or 12 week Hours of Work Averaging Agreement?

A. Yes, this is correct. If the employer is operating a schedule below the overtime threshold of 8/44, there would be no overtime hours calculated for the scheduled hours. Overtime agreements are only required where an employer is substituting overtime pay for banked overtime, and there is no requirement to enter an overtime agreement when banking regular hours. It would appear in this scenario, that an averaging agreement would not be needed either, as the hours worked are consistently below the 8/44 overtime threshold. An averaging agreement would be beneficial only if hours exceed the 8/44 threshold occasionally. As long as employees are properly paid for the time they have worked at the end of each pay period in accordance with section, employers are free to develop their own “flex time agreements” to allow employees to bank regular hours. However, the only limitation is that employees would need to use the banked regular hours they have earned within the same pay period those hours were earned so that their wages specified on their pay cheque match the total hours worked.

Q. We have several farms and ranches in our area and my understanding is that non-family waged employees are exempt from rules around daily and weekly hours of work and rest and must be given four days off within every 28 days. We want to clarify that due to the exemptions, including breaks and overtime requirements, averaging agreements would not apply to farms and ranches.

A. Averaging agreements are used to set alternate overtime thresholds and allow employers to change the standard work week (8/44) to fit a different schedule. However, waged, non-family farm and ranch employees are already fully exempt from s.16 (hours of work confined) and s.18 (days of rest) and the overtime provisions in the Code. Employers in this industry already have the increased flexibility to schedule employees beyond the standard work week and are also not required to pay overtime.

Q. Can you clarify on the notice for leaves how much time is considered “reasonable” for the different leaves?

A. Reasonable notice will vary depending on the circumstances surrounding the leave request. The job-protected leaves, which require notice as soon as reasonable and practicable, were in recognition of the fact that in some circumstances it is quite challenging for an employee to be able to determine when they will need to access a leave (e.g. bereavement, personal illness, family sickness) and should be handled by employers on a case-by-case basis. More information can be found at http://www.alberta.ca/assets/documents/es-leaves-online-poster.pdf

Q. There is some confusion related to exemptions under the Registered Apprenticeship Program (RAP), can you clarify?

A. As per section 53(5) of the Employment Standards Regulation, youth employment permits are not required for employees aged 16-17 employed in a work experience program approved by the minister of education or the minister of advanced education. This includes programs like the Registered Apprenticeship Program and the Green Certificate Program, but can include any other work experience program that is authorized by these ministers.This is also articulated on the youth employment section of the website under “Employees 16 to 17 years of age” here at http://www.alberta.ca/youth-employment-laws.aspx.

Do you have questions about Employment Standards that are still unanswered? We are partnering with government to host a free information session on Alberta’s Employment Standards Code on March 27. Topics will include general holiday pay, averaging agreements, overtime, job-protected leaves and deductions

Pre-registration is requested for the session to ensure sufficient space is available. Register online at http://www.business.medicinehatchamber.com/events/details/employment-standards-seminar-16778.

For more information on Employment Standards visit http://www.alberta.ca/employment-standards.aspx

Find out more about our policy positions regarding the employment standards changes and layered legislation online at http://www.medicinehatchamber.com/pages/Advocacy#policy

Lisa Kowalchuk is the executive director of the Medicine Hat & District Chamber of Commerce. For more information on this column or the Chamber, contact 403-527-5214.

 

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