On April 6, 2020, the Alberta government announced additional changes to Alberta’s Employment Standards Code (the “Code”) in an effort to ease hardships caused by COVID-19. The changes include the following:
Temporary leave period extended
The Alberta government has increased the maximum temporary layoff period from 60 days to 120 days. Previously, employers could only temporarily layoff workers up to a maximum of 60 days within a 120 day period before triggering termination obligations. The recent changes allow employers to temporarily layoff workers for 120 days before workers are deemed terminated and termination pay is owed.
The extension is retroactive for COVID-19 related layoffs that occurred on or after March 17, 2020.
Removal of group termination notice
Effective immediately, employers will not be required to provide group termination notices to employees and unions when terminating 50 or more employees. This relaxation removes the previous requirement to provide group notice when terminating 50 or more workers at a single location within a 4-week period and may reduce the overall amount of notice owed to workers. However, individual termination entitlements will remain in effect and employers will still be required to provide group termination notice to the Minister of Labour and Immigration as soon as practical.
The Alberta government announced an unpaid job-protected leave for employees required to self-isolate or who are caring for family members required to self-isolate. The leave will initially be for a 14 day period, but may be extended if recommended by Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer. In addition, the government has waived the 90-day employment requirement for self-isolation leave.
Increased scheduling flexibility
In an effort to provide employers with increased scheduling flexibility, the government has waived the requirement for employers to provide workers with 24-hour written notice to employees prior to changing shifts as well as the requirement for employers to provide employees under an averaging agreement with two weeks’ written notice prior to scheduling changes.
Easier modifications of employment standards
The process for approving modifications, variances, and exceptions to employment standards have been streamlined to allow employers and workers increased adaptability in light of changing conditions due to COVID-19.
These changes take effect immediately and will remain in place as long as the government determines necessary and the public health emergency order remains in effect.
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