Starting January 1, 2018 there will be some major changes to Alberta’s Employment Standards Code. All employers should be aware of these changes so that they can practice employment law correctly.
Overtime banking will still be calculated at 1.5 x hours worked and will allow for time to be banked for six months rather than three. The employer still needs a written overtime agreement.
Compressed work weeks are no longer available, but existing compressed work week arrangements remain valid until January 1, 2019.
Leaves of Absence
Legal assistants will now be eligible for job protected unpaid leave after 90 days, rather than 52 weeks. When a legal assistant is returning from an unpaid leave the legal assistant must give 48 hours notice unlike the former of a 1 week requirement of notice.
Child Related Leaves: 104 weeks for the parents of a deceased child whose death was a result of a crime; and 52 weeks of unpaid leave for legal assistants who are the parent of a child who has disappeared as a probable crime; and 36 weeks for parents of children who are critically ill for the purpose of providing care for that child.
Long-term Illness and Injury: 16 weeks of unpaid leave upon reasonable notice and provision of medical certificate.
Victims of Domestic Violence: 10 days per year upon reasonable notice in the circumstances.
Citizenship: A half day of unpaid leave to allow a legal assistant to attend their citizenship ceremony and receive their citizenship certificate.
Termination of Employment
When a large number of legal assistants or employees are let go from a law firm within a four week period, the Minister of Labour must be notified in advance. Before January 1, 2018 when large groups of legal assistants were let go the Ministerial Notice was 4 weeks for 50+ legal assistants, now:
- For 50-100 legal assistants/employees; 8 weeks’ notice shall be provided to the Minister.
- For 100-300 legal assistants/employees; 12 weeks’ notice shall be provided to the Minister.
- For 301+ legal assistants/employees; 16 weeks’ notice shall be provided to the Minister
General Holiday Pay
All legal assistants are now eligible for general holiday pay unless they are scheduled to work and do not attend, or have an unapproved absence immediately before or after the holiday. There is no requirement for a minimum period of employment, and no requirement to normally be scheduled on the day of the week on which the holiday falls.
If a general holiday falls on a Saturday, it may be taken as a paid Monday off instead. This is viewed as an equal or greater benefit to the employee.
Rest Periods and Vacation
Law firms must provide a 30 minutes break, paid or unpaid, within every 5 hours of time consecutively worked. Legal assistant’s breaks can be taken in 15-minute installments as well.
Vacations can now be used in half day installments , rather than the previous full days that were required.
Enforcement and Penalties
The time period for commencing a prosecution for a Code violation is increased from one to two years.
Employment standards officers will be given the increased authority to investigate and compel the production of employment information and records.
With the new changes in effect, productivity can be impacted in law firms when receptionists, legal assistants or paralegals are away on leaves. Consider hiring a temp agency, such as Boost Legal Support to assist during these periods where additional help is required.