Written by John Batzel, Laura Inglis, Matthew Macdonald, and Jenna Vivian
On May 27, 2019, the United Conservative Party introduced Bill 2: An Act to Make Alberta Open for Business. Once enacted, Bill 2 will amend the Alberta Employment Standards Code and the Alberta Labour Relations Code. In particular, the following proposed changes are significant:
- Time off with pay in lieu of overtime pay (generally known as an overtime agreement);
- General holiday pay; and
- Union certification.
Employment Standards Code
Bill 2 restores certain provisions to the Employment Standards Code that the NDP government repealed a few years ago. The restored provisions relate to overtime agreements and eligibility and guidelines for general holiday pay. The changes are proposed to come into effect on September 1, 2019.
Currently under the Employment Standards Code, overtime agreements between employers and employees (which permit the employer to provide time off with pay instead of overtime pay at time-and-a-half, in certain circumstances) are deemed to include a provision that requires the employer to provide paid time off calculated at 1.5 hours for each overtime hour worked. Under Bill 2, time off with pay under an overtime agreement will be calculated at 1 hour off for each overtime hour worked. Time off with pay earned but not provided, taken or paid before September 1, 2019, must be paid under the current rules.
General Holiday Pay
Currently under the Employment Standards Code, an employee who does not work on a general holiday when required or scheduled to do so, or who is absent from work without the employer's consent on the employee's last regular work day preceding, or first regular work day following, a general holiday, is not entitled to receive general holiday pay. Bill 2 maintains these eligibility requirements, and adds a further requirement that the employee must work for the same employer at least 30 work days during the 12-month period preceding the general holiday.
General Holiday Pay – Not Working
Currently, if an employee does not work on a general holiday, the employer must pay the employee general holiday pay, regardless of the day on which the general holiday falls. Under Bill 2, the employer will only be required to pay general holiday pay if the general holiday falls on a day that would normally be a work day for the employee. If the employee works an irregular schedule, the general holiday will be considered a day that would normally have been a work day if the employee worked the same day of the week as the day on which the general holiday falls at least 5 of the preceding 9 weeks.
General Holiday Pay – Working
Currently, if an employee works on a general holiday, the employer must either:
- pay the employee at least their average daily wage and an amount at least 1.5 times the employee's wage rate for each hour worked; or
- provide the employee with at least the employee's wage rate and one day's holiday and general holiday pay for that day.
Under Bill 2, these rules will only apply where the general holiday falls on a day that would normally be a work day for the employee. If the employee works on a general holiday that is not a normal work day, general holiday pay will be calculated at 1.5 times the employee's wage rate for each hour worked.
Youth Job Creation Wage
While not part of Bill 2, the UCP enacted an Order in Council on May 27, 2019, to amend the Employment Standards Regulation to create a $13/hour minimum wage rate for employees who are both under 18 years of age and a student. The reduced minimum wage applies to the first 28 hours of work in a work week for underage students, and all work performed during school breaks. Any hours worked over 28 per week while school is in session will be subject to the general $15/hour minimum wage. This change will come into effect on June 26, 2019.
Labour Relations Code
Bill 2 proposes a return to the pre-NDP mandatory secret ballot voting system for union certification, and eliminates "card certification". Currently under the Labour Relations Code, a union seeking certification can forego a representation vote if it can satisfy the Labour Relations Board that 65% of workers in the proposed bargaining unit support unionization at the time of the application. Bill 2 reverts to the old system under which all certification applications are subject to a mandatory secret ballot vote to determine whether the required number of workers in the bargaining unit support unionization, regardless of how many union cards have been signed. Bill 2 also reduces the validity time period for a signed card from 6 months to 90 days for the purposes of supporting a certification application.
Bill 2 states that any union certificates granted without a vote after the Bill's first reading are void.
The proposed amendments to the Alberta Employment Standards Code and the Alberta Labour Relations Code are important and, once enacted, will have a significant impact on the workplace in Alberta. In anticipation of Bill 2 becoming law, employers in Alberta should be prepared to dedicate resources to ensure that all of the changes are implemented among their workforce, and reflected in their employment policies. Bennett Jones can assist with this review and implementation.