Alberta Labour Laws: 8 Laws You Probably Didn’t Know About

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal, accounting, or tax advice. The information contained herein is subject to change and may vary from time to time in your region. For specific advice applicable to your business, please contact a professional.

Owning a business that employs workers can be a very rewarding experience, but could become difficult if you’re not up to date on Alberta’s unique labour laws. Understanding the labour laws that apply to employees in Alberta can help you ensure a working environment that attracts top talent.

Alberta Employment Standards

According to Employment Standards legislation in Alberta, employees are guaranteed certain rights while on the job. For instance, the province recognizes nine specific holidays for which workers are entitled to holiday pay in most circumstances. There are also other regulations, such as:

  • Averaging arrangements – An employee, if they agree, can work revised schedules if an averaging arrangement is in place with their employer.

  • Deductions – Employers can only take certain deductions from employee pay, such as those required by law, authorized in a union or collective agreement, or authorized by your employee in writing. Deductions that an employee can authorize at the time of their hire include those for pensions, social payments, retirement savings, dental and other health plans. As an employer, you also may deduct from the employee’s wages for meals and lodging. You cannot deduct any amount for required uniforms, faulty work, cash shortages or damage to or loss of property.

  • Hours of work – Most workers have the right to breaks and a limit on the number of daily hours scheduled by their employer.
    Hours of rest – Most employees are entitled to a certain number of days off each week.

  • Leaves of absence – Workers are entitled to job protection if they must leave their position for a time for certain personal life matters.
    Minimum wages – Employers must pay employees in Alberta the current minimum wage.

  • Overtime hours and pay – Regardless of full or part-time status, most Alberta employees qualify for overtime pay if they work more than eight hours in one day or 44 hours in one week.

  • Terminations and pay – Advance notice must be provided to an employer when the employee is quitting, or to the employee when the employer is terminating the employee’s employment.

  • Youth employment – If an employer hires anyone under the age of 18, there are specific rules that apply to these employees.

  • Training – Employees should be trained in a manner that ensures they’ll be able to complete their tasks with minimal oversight, such as a cashier who works alone needs to know how to use the store’s POS system.

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Rights and Obligations of Employers and Employees in Alberta

As an employer in Alberta, you have the right to run your business any way you desire but, in doing so, you must not infringe on any rights of your employees. In other words, you must make exceptions to some of your company rules and policies if an employee requests accommodation. You must comply up to the point that it would cause your company undue hardship or unacceptable losses.

Your obligations as an employer include:

  • Ensuring employees are able to perform the tasks of their position and providing proper training
  • Providing capable supervisors
  • Preventing workplace violence, discrimination and harassment
  • Ensuring all employees are aware of the position’s health standards and safety hazards
  • Creating policies regarding safety on the job and implementing measures to track compliance
  • Storing and labeling dangerous chemicals properly
  • Looking into all injuries and accidents
  • Meeting all other Occupational Health and Safety standards

If you decide to hire youth under the age of 18, you should understand this workforce is more likely to suffer on-the-job injuries and less likely to ask supervisors for assistance or to answer questions. To ensure the safety of your younger employees, employers can:

  • Spend more time with them on training
  • Provide more supervision
  • Prior to being assigned any tasks, make sure they know safety specific to their position, and have had training on how to respond to an emergency 
  • Pair younger workers with employees who are most experienced, and have a track record of safety consciousness

And most of all, lead with your own example. Whenever you’re working, be sure you’re wearing required protective gear and that you’re demonstrating the optimal work safety habits.

Employees are tasked with the responsibility of adhering to all laws and regulations pertaining to workplace discrimination, and they also must commit to performing the functions of their position in the safest, most productive manner.

8 Labour Laws in Alberta You Probably Haven’t Heard Of

While many of the above rules and regulations have come across your desk at some point, you’ve probably never heard of these. Did you know:

  1. Even if you send an employee home early due to lack of tasks, you still have to pay the employee for a minimum of three hours of work.
  2. Any employees that have worked for you for at least one year are entitled to vacation time and vacation pay, even if they’re only part-time. Some industries are exempt from this practice, such as farming. Look here for a list of exempt industries.
  3. An employer must demonstrate how to properly perform your employees’ assigned tasks and any safety measures to be followed.
  4. You must provide a workplace entirely free from harassment, bullying, and discrimination. Discrimination happens when an employee is treated unjustly or differently from other co-workers. Protection from discrimination covers race, nationality, skin colour, gender (including physical, identity and expression), religion or spirituality, age, physical and/or mental disabilities, familial or marital status, and sexual orientation.
  5. For all of the above, you must provide accommodations to the point of undue hardship.
  6. It is against Alberta labour laws for you to pay less than the current minimum wage.
  7. Much like the laws regarding vacation time and pay, you are also obligated to pay overtime. For employees who work more than eight hours in one shift or 44 hours in one week, overtime pay is an entitlement. There are exceptions to this rule, depending on the type of industry your business is in. Sales reps, farm and ranch employees, managers, supervisors and certain types of instructors are exempt from overtime pay. There are also averaging arrangements that can be written and signed by both you and your employee if you or your employee want to handle any overtime differently. One of the most usual averaging arrangement allows an employee to take time off equal to the amount of overtime worked in lieu of getting overtime pay.
  8. You cannot fire an employee for requesting accommodation for an employee entitlement, such as freedom from discrimination. You also cannot fire an employee for lodging a complaint against you with the Alberta Human Rights office.

It should be noted that all regulations related to discrimination and harassment cover the entire employee journey, from job search to interview, employment and post-employment.

What Are Alberta’s Labour Laws Regarding COVID-19?

A number of changes have been made to the labour laws in Alberta since the COVID-19 pandemic began. There are now three job-protected leaves related to COVID-19:

  • COVID-19 Leave (came into effect March 5, 2020)
  • COVID-19 Vaccination Leave (came into effect April 21, 2021)
    Extended COVID-19 Personal and Family Responsibility Leave (came into effect March 17, 2020)

COVID-19 Leave

Employees are eligible for this if they have to quarantine or self-isolate. The leave is for the duration of 14 days. It is unpaid, but federal income support may be available.

COVID-19 Vaccination Leave

Employees are eligible for this if they are receiving a COVID-19 vaccination. The leave is for up to three consecutive hours of job-protected, paid time off per vaccination appointment. Employers may provide additional time if needed, but are not required to do so.

Extended COVID-19 Personal and Family Responsibility Leave

Employees are eligible for this if they have a responsibility to care for quarantined or self-isolating family members, or children who are unable to attend school or child care services as a result of recommendations from the Chief Medical Officer with respect to COVID-19. The length of this leave is flexible, and it ends when the employee’s family member or child no longer needs care. It is unpaid, but federal income support may be available.

Employees are eligible for all three of these leave periods regardless of their length of service.

As a business owner, employer, manager, supervisor, or even bookkeeper or accountant, you have many duties to uphold when you begin hiring or working with employees. There are several laws that govern what to do, how to do it and when to do it. Labour laws in Alberta reference everything from before you’ve hired a worker to your extension of employment to employees quitting or being terminated. It is your responsibility to be aware of the laws that govern your specific industry.

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