Bill 2: An Act to Make Alberta Open for Business – What You Need to Know

On May 27, 2019, the provincial government tabled Bill 2, 'An Act to Make Alberta Open for Business'.  Bill 2 includes reforms to two of the most important workplace-related laws in Alberta, the Alberta Employment Standards Code (the "ESC"), and the Labour Relations Code (the "LRC").  It represents the first step in the government's revisions to NDP-era changes to both the ESC and LRC, with further changes expected in the fall of 2019.  In many cases, these changes mark a return to the pre-2017 versions of these laws.


The following is a summary of the most noteworthy reforms in Bill 2.


1)     Changes to the Employment Standards Code


Banked Overtime - Effective September 1, 2019, employers will once again be allowed to have employees enter into agreements to bank overtime hours worked at straight time, and have them use those banked hours to receive time off with pay at straight time.  This marks a return to pre-2017 overtime averaging arrangements that are prevalent in other jurisdictions.  Overtime hours that are earned, and have not been paid, provided or taken before September 1st will need to be used in accordance with the current wording of the ESC, meaning that they will need to be paid, provided or taken at a rate of at least 1.5 times the employee's hourly rate.  All of the foregoing would be subject to the terms of any application collective agreements or overtime agreements that are currently in place.


General Holiday Pay - In order to qualify for General Holiday pay, employees will once again be required to work for the same employer for 30 working days in the 12 months preceding the subject General Holiday.  Furthermore, employers are not required to pay General Holiday pay to employees if the General Holiday falls on a day that would not normally have been a work day for those employees.  For employees who work irregular work schedules, eligibility for General Holiday pay will once again be determined based on whether those employees worked on the day of the week on which the General Holiday occurred in at least five (5) of the last nine (9) weeks preceding that General Holiday.  Finally, employees who do not normally work on a General Holiday but who end up working on that day will be entitled to pay at a rate of at least 1.5 times the employee's hourly rate, and are not required to receive any other General Holiday pay.


These changes come into effect on September 1, 2019.


In addition, a regulatory change will take effect June 26, 2019, to reduce the minimum wage for students under 18 to $13/hour, for students working 28 hours/week or less when school is in session, and for all hours worked during school break periods.  Students must be paid the general minimum wage of $15/hour for time exceeding 28 hours in one week when school is in session.


2)     Changes to the Labour Relations Code


Support for Employees - The Minister will have the ability to establish a support program for employees with respect to matters under the LRC and a number of other labour-related laws.  This program will provide increased access to justice for employees with a labour-related issue who may not have access to support from a trade union.  This change will come into effect on October 1, 2019.


Changes to the Certification Process - Bill 2 removes the automatic certification process that was introduced by the prior NDP government, and replaces it with the pre-2017 certification process which requires a representational vote on all certification applications.  Additionally, the expiry for proof of support for a certification application has returned to 90 days.


These new rules would apply to all certification applications received on or after May 27, 2019.  Any certificates issued by the Labour Relations Board (the "Board") from and after that date will be considered void if no representational vote took place.


Marshalling of Proceedings - The Board's power to marshal multiple proceedings involving common circumstances has been expanded and clarified.  Importantly, the Board now has the ability to make directions with regard to employment matters that are before the Alberta Human Rights Commission or a tribunal appointed pursuant to the Alberta Human Rights Act.  This includes the ability to direct that a particular issue be heard by that decision maker, or that a proceeding before a decision maker be stayed.  These new powers will allow the Board to more effectively streamline various matters that are before a plethora of forums.


Neuman Thompson will continue to provide an ongoing analysis of the various changes to theESC and the LRC that are being proposed by the government, including analysis regarding the practical considerations and policy implications of those changes.  We look forward to answering questions and engaging in discussions surrounding these issues.