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What You Need to Know About Employment Standards

Are you starting your first job, or a new job, in Alberta? You may wonder what conditions will be like where you’ll be working.

Alberta has rules about wages, hours of work and rest, overtime, vacation, general holidays (often referred to as statutory holidays or stats) and other working conditions. These rules are called "employment standards" and can be found in the Employment Standards Code and Employment Standards Regulation. They are the minimum work standards for employers and employees.

Here are some key questions you should ask your employer about the rules in your workplace. The answers will help you understand the minimum standards required by the Employment Standards Code.

  1. Am I old enough to work for you?
    If you're 12, 13 or 14 years old, you can work in certain occupations, for example; as a retail clerk, a newspaper deliverer, an office clerk or a messenger. If you're 15, 16 or 17 years old, there are also some restrictions about where and when you can work. Read more about age and employment in the Adolescents and Young Persons fact sheet.

  2. How much and when will I be paid?
    The minimum wage in Alberta is:
    • $13.60 an hour for most employees.
    • $13.60 an hour for employees serving liquor as part of their regular job.
    • $542 a week for many salespersons, including land agents and certain professionals.
    • $2,582 a month for domestic employees.

    However, certain categories of employees are exempt from the minimum wage requirement. See the Minimum Wage fact sheet for further information or contact the Employment Standards Contact Centre.

    Many employers pay more than minimum wage. Your employer can pay you in cash, by cheque or by direct deposit (putting payment directly into your back account). 

    Your employer must establish a pay period to calculate your wages, overtime hours, vacation pay and other details. Typical pay periods are once a week, every two weeks or once a month. Your employer must pay you at least once a month and within 10 days of the end of each pay period. For more information, visit the  Payment of Earnings section on the Alberta Labour website.

  3. What information will be on my pay stubs?
    A pay stub (also called a pay slip or statement of earnings and deductions) is a record of what you have earned and what has been deducted from your earnings. An employer must give you a pay stub, regardless of whether you are paid by cash, cheque or direct deposit.
    A pay stub must show the following:
    • regular and overtime hours of work
    • wage rate and overtime rate
    • details of the earnings you've been paid (for example, vacation pay, holiday pay and overtime)
    • deductions from earnings and the reason for each deduction
    • time off instead of overtime pay
    • the period of employment covered by the pay stub

    Check your pay stub as soon as you get it to make sure it's accurate. Keep your pay stubs. You may need them if there's a dispute between you and your employer or your employer goes out of business and owes you money.

  4. What will be deducted from my pay?
    Employers are only allowed to make certain deductions from your pay. Some deductions are mandatory and some are optional. Mandatory deductions may include:
    • federal and provincial income tax
    • Employment Insurance premiums (EI)
    • Canada Pension Plan contributions (CPP)
    • money authorized by a collective agreement, such as union dues
    • deductions resulting from a judgment or court order

    Other deductions, which you must approve in writing, may include:
    • medical and/or dental premiums
    • life insurance coverage
    • personal savings plans

    Employers may not deduct money for cash shortages or loss of property, unless you have sole access to the cash or property. Employers may deduct money for other purposes, such as uniforms, parking or a coffee fund, but only if you sign a form allowing them to do so.

  5. Where and when is the shift schedule posted?
    Signing in and out of your shifts helps both you and your employer keep track of your hours of work. If you're not required to sign in and out, it's still a good idea to keep your own written record of the hours you work.

    Your employer must tell you when to start and finish your work by posting schedules where employees can see them or by any other reasonable method. Your employer must notify you at least 24 hours before a shift change. If there is a shift change, you must be allowed at least 8 hours of rest between shifts.

  6. What scheduled rest breaks and what days off will I have?
    In each shift longer than 5 hours, you're entitled to at least 30 minutes of rest. This rest period can be one 30minute break, two 15minute breaks or three 10minute breaks. When you work a shift that is less than 5 hours, your employer does not have to provide a break.

    Your employer must provide you with weekly rest days or days off. You must get one day of rest each week OR rest days as follows:
    • If you have worked 2 consecutive weeks, your employer must provide you with 2 consecutive rest days in the weeks worked.
    • If you have worked 3 consecutive weeks, your employer must provide you with 3 consecutive rest days in the weeks worked.
    • If you have worked 4 consecutive weeks, your employer must provide you with 4 consecutive rest days in the weeks worked.

    After 24 consecutive days of work, you must get at least 4 consecutive days off.

  7. What happens if I work overtime?
    Your employer may ask you to work overtime.

    If you're 12, 13 or 14 years of age, you cannot work:
    • after 9 p.m.
    • more than 8 hours on a nonschool day
    • more than 2 hours on a school day

    Overtime is the total number of hours you work beyond 8 hours a day or 44 hours a week—whichever adds up to the greater number of hours. There are some exceptions; for example, for domestic employees such as nannies.

    Whether you are paid on an hourly, weekly or monthly basis or on an annual salary, you must be paid for overtime work. The rate of pay is at least 1.5 times your regular wage unless you are working under an overtime agreement.

    An overtime agreement allows you to save up or bank overtime hours. Then you can take the time off with pay—you must be given at least one hour off for each hour of overtime work you have banked. You must take these days off within 3 months of the pay period in which you banked the hours. An overtime agreement, which is voluntary, must be in writing and signed by both you and your employer. Your employer must give you a copy of the agreement.

  8. Is vacation pay included on every cheque?
    For most employees, vacation pay is paid at a minimum rate of 4% of your regular wage.  After working 1 year for an employer, you are entitled to a minimum of 2 weeks of vacation. Both vacation pay and vacation time increase in the 5th year that you work with the same employer.

    Many employers include vacation pay on every cheque; others pay at different times. All employers must pay vacation pay no later than the next payday after your vacation begins.

  9. Will I work on general holidays?
    Alberta recognizes the following 9 general holidays:
    • New Year's Day
    • Alberta Family Day
    • Good Friday
    • Victoria Day
    • Canada Day
    • Labour Day
    • Thanksgiving Day
    • Remembrance Day
    • Christmas Day

    If you're entitled to general holiday pay and you work on that day, you will be paid your average daily wage plus timeandahalf for every hour you work, or you may receive your regular wage for every hour you work plus a day off with pay. Ask your employer to find out if you’re entitled or visit the General Holidays and General Holiday Pay section on the Alberta Labour website for more information.

    If you are entitled to general holiday pay and do not work on the holiday, you will receive at least your average daily wage as general holiday pay.

  10. Do you have any other rules I need to know about?
    A good way to avoid problems at work, such as disciplinary action or losing your job, is to find out all you can about the conditions of employment. Your employer may have an employee handbook or policy manual that states the rules or guidelines for dress codes and appearance, being late for work, missing a shift and other workplace issues.

    Alberta's Employment Standards Code and Employment Standards Regulation are the minimum requirements for nearly all employers and employees in the province. Many employers provide working conditions that offer more than these minimum standards.

    Ask your employer about employment standards in your workplace. When you know what to expect—and what's expected of you—you'll feel more comfortable about your employer and the working environment.

  11. Do you have a safety program to protect me?
    Employers are required to eliminate or control hazards in the workplace under Alberta’s Occupational Health and Safety Code.

    Your employer is responsible for the following:
    • telling you about any workplace dangers
    • setting and enforcing safe work practices
    • making sure you have the proper skills and training to do your job safely.

    You cannot be fired for refusing to work in unhealthy or unsafe conditions that violate the Occupational Health and Safety Code.

    This article is intended as general information only and does not take the place of the Employment Standards Code. Consult the Employment Standards Code available on the Alberta Labour website for detailed information.
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