July 18th, 2018

Business Beat: Are you ready for employment standards changes on Jan. 1?

By Medicine Hat News on December 27, 2017.

About a month ago, I wrote about the upcoming employment standards changes and the concern related to the delay in regulatory details. On Dec. 4 the final set of regulations were approved and the employment standards information has been updated since that time. Here is a quick summary of the changes coming into effect Jan. 1.

Leave eligibility: Employees will be eligible for current (excluding reservists leave) and new leaves after 90 days, rather than one year.

Compassionate care leave: Unpaid job protection will be extended to 27 weeks, from the current 8 weeks and caregiver status will be expanded to include non-primary caregivers with additional changes outlined in the new standards for compassionate care leave.

Maternity/parental leave: Unpaid job protection for maternity leave will be extended from 15 to 16 weeks and unpaid job protection for parental leave will be extended to 62 weeks. Additional information has been made available through the new standards for maternity and parental leave.

Rest periods: Employees will be entitled to a minimum of a 30-minute break (paid or unpaid) within every five hours of consecutive employment. If agreed to by the employer and employees, breaks can be taken in two, 15-minute instalments.

Compressed work weeks: “Averaging Agreements” have replaced this style of work agreement and employers and employees will be allowed to agree to average work hours over a period of one to 12 weeks for the purpose of determining overtime eligibility.

Deductions: The code clarified which deductions will be allowed from wages, as well as explicitly prohibiting deductions for faulty work and cash shortages (i.e. dine-and-dash and gas-and-dash scenarios).

Minimum wage: Employers will no longer be allowed to pay employees with disabilities less than the minimum wage. Permits that formerly allowed employers to pay employees with disabilities less than the minimum wage are no longer available.

Overtime: Overtime agreements will allow time to be banked for six months rather than three, however overtime banking will be calculated at 1.5-times for all overtime hours worked, rather than hour-for-hour.

General holiday and general holiday pay: The requirement to have worked for 30 days in the 12 months before the holiday will be removed and the distinction between regular and non-regular days of work has been eliminated with general holiday pay calculated as 5% of wages earned in the four weeks immediately preceding the holiday.

Vacations and vacation pay: The code clarified that employees must be paid 4 per cent or two weeks of their total wages as vacation pay until they have been employed for five years, after which they must receive at least 6 per cent. Half-day vacation increments will also be allowed, up from a minimum of one day.

Termination and temporary layoffs: Employers will be prohibited from forcing employees to use entitlements such as vacation or overtime during a termination notice period, unless agreed to by both. There are also additional requirements in the standards for temporary layoffs, group terminations and notice periods.

Youth employment: With the exception of artistic endeavours, youth under the age of 13 will not be allowed to work as employees. Youth aged 13-15 will only be allowed to work in jobs on the ‘light work’ list. Youth aged 15 years and under will not be allowed to work from 12:01 a.m. to 6 a.m. Youth under 16 will be prohibited from jobs deemed to include hazardous work. Youth aged 16 and 17 will be allowed to do hazardous work only with a permit, and with proper training and supervision. These youth employment laws will come into effect in May 2018 and we are still awaiting information related to the light work and hazardous work lists.

Additional unpaid, job protected leaves have been added including personal and family responsibility leave, long-term illness and injury leave, bereavement leave, domestic violence leave, citizenship ceremony leave, critical illness of an adult family member leave, leave for the critical illness of a child or for the death or disappearance of a child.

There is also a new administrative penalty system that will be implemented for employers found to be in contravention of the code.

The standards have also defined how farms and ranches will be affected with family members being exempt from all employment standards code provisions. There is additional information for non-family employees earning a wage. The standards have also stated that greenhouses, nurseries, mushroom and sod farms are not considered farms under the Employment Standards Code. For more information, see farm and ranch employment standards exceptions and farm and ranch employment standards consultations.

General information about employment standards rules can be found online at http://www.alberta.ca/eschanges. Updates can be obtained by emailing ES.Updates@gov.ab.ca and you can view and register for webinars online as they become available: https://ers.humanservices.alberta.ca/es-webinars.aspx. Details regarding Bill 17: The Fair and Family-friendly Workplaces Actare online as well as the Employment Standards Amendment Regulation. As a business, if you have questions or concerns related to the Employment Standards changes, please share your feedback with us by emailing policy@medicinehatchamber.com.

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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