Alberta Government Implements Temporary Changes to the Employment Standards Code in response to COVID-19

Prepared by Andrew Skeith, Student-at-Law

In response to the difficulties faced by employers and employees as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government of Alberta has announced an intention to implement temporary changes to the Employment Standards Code, RSA 2000, c E-9. These changes include:

1. Longer Temporary Layoff Period: The maximum amount of time an employee may be temporarily laid off has been extended from 60 to 120 days. This change applies retroactively to any temporary layoffs related to COVID-19 which took place on or after March 17. The effect of this change is that an employee who has been temporarily laid off for a period longer than 60 days is not entitled to termination pay on the 61st day, and an employer is not required to pay wages or some other form of compensation in order to retain that employee until the new maximum 120 day temporary layoff period has been met. The details of this are yet to be announced, but for those who have processed a temporary layoff on or after March 17, a follow-up correspondence to the affected employee may be necessary.

2. New Job Protected Leave for Parents Caring for out-of-school Children: Any employees caring for children who are now unable to attend school or daycare are entitled to an unpaid job protected leave. This leave also applies to those individuals caring for ill or self-isolated family members. The duration of this job protected leave is “flexible”, and does not require the employee to have been employed for a period of 90 days or longer to be eligible.

3. Removal of Group Termination Notices: Employers who are terminating 50 or more employees at a single location within a 4-week period are no longer required to provide additional termination notice to each employee that is to be terminated. Currently, an employer performing a group termination is required to provide a minimum of 8 weeks’ notice in such situations, regardless of the employee’s length of service. Notice to the Government is likely still required.

4. Removal of Notice Requirements for Shift Changes: Employers will no longer be required to provide 24-hour written notice before changing an employee’s hours of work, for those employees engaged in shift work. Similarly, employers will no longer be required to provide two weeks’ notice before implementing changes to work schedules for employees who are governed by an hours of work averaging agreement.

5. Streamlining of Modification of Employment Standards: The press release states that the changes will also streamline “the process for approvals related to modifying employment standards so employers and workers can respond quicker to changing conditions at the workplace due to the public health emergency.”

The Government has stated that these changes will take effect immediately and will be in place temporarily for as long as the Government determines they are needed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is worth noting, however, that there has not yet been any legislation released setting out the above changes in detail. We will continue to monitor the status of potential legislation.

If you have questions about how these changes will affect you or your organization, please contact any member of our Labour & Employment Team.

The above is meant to provide information only and is not intended to provide legal advice. Although every effort has been made to provide current and accurate information, changes to the law may cause the information in this post to be outdated.