Employer Essentials from Alberta’s New Fair and Family Friendly Workplaces Act

The new year brought with it a series of changes to Alberta’s Employment Standards Code through the introduction of Bill 17: The Fair and Family Friendly Workplaces Act.  Below we have outlined the changes that will have the biggest impact on employers.  While the list is not exhaustive, it does cover the main areas that are likely to cause complications or require changes to your employment practices in the year ahead.

Leaves of Absence

There are a number of changes to the rules around Leaves of Absence.

  • Eligibility for current and new leaves commences after 90 days of employment, rather than one year.
  • The length of maternity leave is extended from 15 to 16 weeks.
  • The length of compassionate care leave has been extended from 8 to 27 weeks.

In addition, a number of new unpaid leaves have been created, which include:


Leave Reason Length
Personal and Family Responsibility Leave personal sickness or short-term care of an immediate family member. 5 days
Long-term Illness and Injury Leave long-term personal sickness or injury (medical certificate required). 16 weeks
Bereavement Leave bereavement of an immediate family member. 3 days
Domestic Violence Leave addressing domestic violence. 10 days
Citizenship Ceremony Leave attending a citizenship ceremony. ½ day
Critical Illness of an Adult Family Member caring for an ill or injured adult family member. 16 weeks
Critical Illness of a Child for parents of critically ill or injured children. 36 weeks
Death or Disappearance of a Child child disappeared as a result of a crime or child died as a result of a crime. 52 weeks; or

104 weeks


In many instances, these changes will differ from the leave provisions in many employer policies.  Action should be taken to review current policies to ensure they comply with the legislated minimums.

Rest Periods

Employers are now required to provide 30 minutes of break time for every five hours of consecutive work.  If both the employer and employee agree, the rest period can be divided into two fifteen-minute breaks.  The break periods can be paid or unpaid, at the employer’s discretion.

These rest periods are mandatory, even if the employee agrees to, or requests, an alternative schedule.  Employers will need to keep this requirement in mind when preparing staff schedules, or face a potential penalty for non-compliance.

Hours Worked

Compressed work weeks has been renamed “averaging agreements”.  Hours of Work Averaging Agreements can be recommended by the employer and require the support of the majority of affected employees. These agreements allow employees to work longer days without requiring the employer to pay for overtime.

Employers may also enter into Flexible Averaging Agreements on an individualized basis, but this must be at the request of the employee.

Under either agreement, the scheduled work hours cannot exceed 12 hours per day and an average of 44 hours in a week.

Overtime Policy

When employees with banked overtime request time of in lieu, they are now entitled to 1.5X their overtime hours.  For example, an employee with eight hours of OT in the bank is now entitled to 12 hours off with pay.

General Holiday Pay

There are also changes to the pay entitlements of employees required to work on a General Holiday.   Staff are now entitled to their average daily wage plus 1.5X the hours worked.  An employee earning $20 per hour for an eight hour shift on a General Holiday will now be entitled to $160 (daily wage) + $240 (1.5 X the hours worked) = $400.

Employees are only entitled to General Holiday Pay if they work their regular shift before and after the holiday.

The list of official General Holidays to which employees are entitled to general holiday pay in Alberta are:

  • New Year’s Day
  • Alberta Family Day
  • Good Friday
  • Victoria Day
  • Canada Day
  • Labour Day
  • Thanksgiving
  • Remembrance Day
  • Christmas Day

Easter Monday, Heritage Day (first Monday in August) and Boxing Day are all considered optional general holidays and employers are not required to pay staff holiday pay.

Terminations and Layoffs

Employers can no longer require employees to use vacation time or banked OT during their notice period.  In addition, termination pay will now be calculated by taking the average weekly wage of the employee during the previous 13 weeks.

The above is a summary of some of the significant changes to the Employment Standards Act.  The Employment Standards website has a helpful rundown of the complete changes.  If you have any questions at all, the employment law group at Duncan Craig LLP are here to assist and answer any questions you might have.

Tara Matheson


This article is intended to give general information only. We recommend you contact a lawyer for specific legal advice.