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Laws About Time Off From Work and Your Pay

It’s good to have time off from work. You can rest or do other things. Time off can be short, like a coffee break. Or time off can be long, like a vacation.

This is an Easy Reading article

Use the Easy Reading Dictionary to learn the words in this article.

Alberta has laws for different types of time off.

Laws about rest breaks

The law says you must have at least 30 minutes of rest for each 5 hours that you work. The rest break can be taken in 2 parts if you and your employer agree. But each part must be at least 15 minutes.

If your shift is 10 hours or longer, you must have two 30-minute breaks.

Sometimes, rest breaks cannot happen for a reason. The law allows the rest break rules to change for these special reasons:

  • An accident happens or something needs to be done right away.
  • Something unexpected happens.
  • A collective agreement or union agreement says breaks will happen differently.
  • It does not make sense for you to take your break.

Some employers pay you for rest breaks. But some do not. If your employer has rules about what you can do on your break, then you must be paid. For example, if you are not allowed to leave, you must be paid. And if you cannot take your break, then you must be paid.

You must be allowed 8 hours of rest between your work shifts.

To learn more, visit Daily rest periods (breaks).

Laws about rest days

You must get days off from work. There are rules to explain the number of days you get.

Many employers give workers 2 days off in each work week. Here are some other ways that employers give rest days:

  • 1 day of rest in each work week
  • 2 days of rest in a row in a period of 2 work weeks in a row
  • 3 days of rest in a row in a period of 3 work weeks in a row
  • 4 days of rest in a row in a period of 4 work weeks in a row

Example

Amal works Tuesday to Sunday at a flower shop. She gets Mondays off. Sometimes her supervisor asks her to work on Monday too. If Amal works for 12 days in a row, she must get 2 days off. The 2 days must be in a row. For example, Monday and Tuesday.

To learn more, see Days of rest.

Laws about vacations

You must have a vacation from work. Some employers tell their workers when to take vacations. For example, salespeople may not be allowed vacations during busy seasons.

Some employers let you choose your time for vacations. You must tell your employer when you want your vacation. The employer must agree to the dates before you are allowed to take them. You must use your vacation time each year within 12 months from when you earned it.

You have to earn vacation time. The law says you get a vacation after you work for 1 employer for 12 months. But sometimes you and your employer can agree that you will take vacation before 12 months.

You also earn vacation pay.

What is vacation pay?

Vacations and vacation pay grow if you stay at a company for a long time. Here are some examples of the work laws for vacations and vacation pay: 

  • If you have been at the company for under 5 years:
    • Your vacation time = 2 weeks
    • Your vacation pay = 4% of yearly pay
  • Once you have worked at the company for over 5 years:
    • Your vacation time = 3 weeks
    • Your vacation pay = 6% of yearly pay

Workers get vacation pay in different ways:

  • Some workers get a bit of vacation pay on every paycheque. If they wish, these workers can save their vacation pay for their time off.
  • Some workers do not get vacation pay on every paycheque. They tell their employer when they want their vacation. Then their employer gives them their vacation pay all at once. It is on the paycheque closest to their vacation time.
  • Some workers take only part of their vacation time at 1 time. They will get only part of their vacation pay at that time.
  • Construction workers get at least 6% vacation pay per year. But they may not get vacation time.

Examples

Warda works full time at a pet store. She gets $17 per hour. She gets vacation pay on each paycheque.

Warda has worked for the store for 1 year. She must get at least 2 weeks off. Warda wants to take 1 week off in June and another week off in August. She tells her employer the dates. Her employer approves the dates.

Warda will not get paid during her vacation. She got her vacation pay on each paycheque.

Abi works part time in a hotel. He is paid by the hour. He does not get his vacation pay on each paycheque.

Abi has worked for the hotel for 1 year. So he has earned a vacation. He must get at least 2 weeks off. He will be paid 4% of his last year’s wages as vacation pay.

Abi wants to take 1 week off in March. He wants 1 more week off in July. He tells his employer the dates. The employer approves them. Abi will get half his vacation pay in March and the rest in July.

Miguel gets a monthly salary. He has worked at his job for 1 year. So he must get at least 2 weeks off. He will also get his regular salary during those 2 weeks.

To learn more, see Vacations and vacation pay.

Laws about holidays

You have to have worked at least 30 work days at your job in the last 12 months to earn holidays. Holidays are different from vacations. Alberta has 9 general holidays:

  • New Year’s Day – January 1
  • Alberta Family Day – the 3rd Monday in February
  • Good Friday – the Friday before Easter
  • Victoria Day – the Monday before May 25
  • Canada Day – July 1, but if July 1 is a Sunday, then it’s July 2
  • Labour Day – the 1st Monday in September
  • Thanksgiving Day – the 2nd Monday in October
  • Remembrance Day – November 11
  • Christmas Day – December 25

Many workers in Alberta get holiday time off work. But some workers do not.

Many employers also decide to give workers other days as holidays. For example:

  • Easter Monday – the 1st Monday after Easter
  • Heritage Day – the 1st Monday in August
  • Boxing Day – December 26

If an employer decides to give workers other days as holidays, the same holiday work laws apply.

Some holidays happen on your normal working day. You may get the day off. Or you may get extra holiday pay.

Some holidays can happen during your vacation. Then you get an extra day of vacation.

What is holiday pay?

Some types of workers do not get a day off on these holidays. If you work on a general holiday, you will get either extra pay or extra time off work.

To learn more, see General holidays and pay.

Other types of time off

Alberta has many other laws about time off, which is also called leave. For most types of time off, these rules apply:

  • You may take time off as long as you have worked for at least 90 days for 1 employer.
  • You can ask your employer for time off if you have worked less than 90 days. But they do not have to give you the leave.
  • Most of the time, you can go back to your job when you finish your leave.
  • Your employer does not have to pay you if you take leave. But for some types of leave, you may be able to get money from your employment insurance (EI).

Time off to have a baby

Many workers take time off from work when there is a new baby. There are 2 kinds of time off for this:

  • Maternity leave
  • Parental leave

Maternity leave is for the mother who is having the baby. Maternity leave is 16 weeks long. Maternity leave can begin before the birth. If the baby is being adopted, the birth mother can take maternity leave.

Parental leave is 62 weeks long. It is for a parent of a baby. New parents can share this leave. For example, one parent can take 20 weeks. And the other parent can take 42 weeks. Adopting parents can take parental leave.

You can start parental leave any time after the child is born or adopted. But you must finish before 78 weeks (1 1/2 years) from that date. You can take maternity and parental leave even if you work part time.

For this type of leave, you may be able to get money from your employment insurance (EI).

To learn more, see Maternity and parental leave.

Time off to care for someone who is dying

Sometimes, the people you love get so sick they may soon die. You may want to be with them and help care for them.

You can take up to 27 weeks off work to care for a family member who is dying. This is called compassionate care leave. You can take this leave even if you work part time.

There are rules about who fits the meaning of a family member.

If you provide a medical certificate, you can go back to your job when you finish your leave. For this type of leave, you may be able to get money from your employment insurance (EI).

Example

Hoa leaves to care for her dying mother on January 6. She uses 4 weeks in January and 4 weeks in June.

To learn more, see Compassionate care leave.

Time off to look after a very sick family member

If a family member is very ill, you want to be there to help that person get better.

You can take up to 16 weeks off to care for a very ill adult in your family. You can take up to 36 weeks off to care for a very ill child in your family.

Sick children must be under 18. There are rules about who is a family member for this leave. You must get a medical certificate.

For this type of leave, you may be able to get money from your employment insurance (EI).

To learn more, see Critical illness leave.

Time off because a child is missing or has been killed

No one ever wants to think about a child being taken, hurt, or killed.

But crimes can happen. Sometimes a child is taken away or even dies because of someone breaking the law.

If you are the parent or guardian of a child who goes missing or has died, and it appears to be because of a crime, you can take a leave. You can take up to 52 weeks of leave if the child is missing. You can take up to 104 weeks of leave if the child dies because of a crime.

The child must be under 18. You can be either the parent or someone who cares for this child. But you cannot be the one who is charged with the crime.

To learn more, see Death or disappearance of child leave.

Time off because of a death in the family

When someone in your family dies, it is a sad time. You can take up to 3 days of leave a year for this reason. This is called bereavement leave.

3 days is the total amount of leave given per year. You cannot take 3 days for each death in the family the same year.

Example

Yurgen’s grandfather died in August. Yurgen took 2 days of bereavement leave to travel to the funeral.

A few months later in October, Yurgen’s nephew also died. Yurgen can take 1 more day of bereavement leave.

To learn more, see Bereavement leave.

Time off to escape from violence

You or a person you care for may live with someone who is violent or hurtful. You may need time to find help and safety.

You can take up to 10 days a year for domestic violence leave to find help for you or someone you care for.

The person you care for can be someone in your family or someone you live with and look after.

To learn more, see Domestic violence leave.

Time off for long-term illness or injury

People sometimes get sick or injured. Often it takes only a few days to get better. But it can take much longer.

You can take up to 16 weeks of leave a year to get well after a long illness or injury.

You must get a medical certificate that says how long your doctor thinks it will take for you to recover.

For this type of leave, you may be able to get money from your employment insurance (EI).

To learn more, see Long-term illness and injury leave.

Time off for personal and family duties

You may need to look after your health or the needs of your family during the work day. For example, you may need to visit the doctor. Or see your child’s teacher.

You can take up to 5 days of leave a year to take care of your health or handle family duties. You do not have to take the whole day each time. You can take half a day if that is all you need.

Example

Kara had the flu last month. She stayed home for 2 days until she felt better.

Last week, Kara’s grandmother had an appointment with the dentist. Her grandmother does not drive, so Kara had to take her. Kara took half a day off work for this. Kara asked her employer first.

Kara still has 2 and a half days to use if she needs to.

To learn more, see Personal and family responsibility leave.

Time off to become a citizen

Are you going to be a Canadian citizen? Good for you! Soon you can go to an event for this. At this event, you will promise (swear) to be a good citizen. You can take up to half a day from work for this event.

This leave is for you only. You cannot take this leave to go watch someone else become a citizen.

To learn more, see Citizenship ceremony leave.

Time off is important

There are many reasons why you might need time off. It is important to take time for yourself and your family if you need it. The laws about time off help protect you.

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