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What You Need to Know About Employment Standards

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 [pdf] and Employment Standards Regulation [pdf]. They are the minimum work standards for most employers and employees. There are some federally regulated industries that are exempt from Alberta's employment standards.

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

Jump to:

  1. Your first 3 months
  2. General holidays and vacations
  3. Hours of work and pay
  4. Leaving your job temporarily
  5. Leaving your job permanently
  6. Collecting Employment Insurance (EI)
  7. Youth employment
  8. Other considerations
  9. Have an Employment Standards complaint?

Your first 3 months

During your first 3 months on the job, you or your employer may end employment without written notice or termination pay. Don’t confuse this with working for free or a trial period before you’re officially hired and on the payroll—something an employer can’t request and you can’t offer. Once hired, you must be paid during orientation and training. After training, you’re entitled to pay and other Employment Standards Code entitlements. Employment Standards doesn’t cover you if you’re enrolled in officially recognized unpaid work experience programs, such as through a school board, but other rules apply to protect you.

General holidays and vacations

What if I work on general holidays?

Alberta recognizes 9 general holidays. These are also called statutory holidays or stats. Most employees, full-time and part-time, are entitled to paid general holidays if they have worked 30 workdays in the last 12 months before the general holiday. Alberta’s general holidays are:

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

If you’re eligible for general holiday pay, it falls on a normal workday, and you work on that day, you will be paid your average daily wage plus time-and-a-half for every hour you work, or you may receive your regular wage for every hour you work plus a day off with pay at average daily wage.

If you’re eligible for general holiday pay, it falls on a normal workday, but you don’t work on that day, you will still be paid your average daily wage.

If you’re eligible for general holiday pay, but it doesn’t fall on a normal workday, you can still be eligible for general holiday pay as long as you work on the day. You will be paid at time-and-a-half for every hour you work on the holiday. Visit General holidays for more information.

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 after 5 consecutive years of employment 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. See Vacation pay for more information.

Hours of work and pay

Equal pay for similar work

Under Alberta’s human rights law, men and women working in the same place and doing the same or similar work must be paid at the same wage. Differences in pay must be based on experience, education, or job performance, not on your gender.

What is the minimum wage in Alberta?

As of June 26, 2019, the minimum wage in Alberta is $15.00 per hour for most workers. For more information, see Minimum wage.

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 2 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 Payment of earnings.

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. 

Check your pay stub for accuracy as soon as you get it. 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.

Visit Pay statements for details on the information your pay stub must include. 

Working as a contractor

If you contract to work for a certain time or on a certain task, you may be considered self-employed. In this case, different rules for pay, hours of work, tax deductions, Employment Insurance, Canada Pension Plan and Workers’ Compensation may apply. If a temporary employment agency hires you, you may be called a contract worker, but in that case you’re usually an employee, not a self-employed contractor.

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 (EI) premiums
  • Canada Pension Plan (CPP) contributions
  • 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 dental premiums
  • Life insurance coverage
  • Personal savings plans

Employers may not deduct money for uniforms or faulty work. Employers may only deduct for cash shortages or loss of property if you have sole access to the cash or property and you sign a form allowing them to do so.

Employers may deduct for payroll errors, overpayments, or vacation pay advances without an employee’s prior authorization. Employers can also deduct money for other purposes, such as parking or a coffee fund, but only if you sign a form allowing them to do so. See Deductions from earnings to learn more.

Keeping your own employment information

Keeping your own records, including your pay stubs, is helpful if you need to clarify something with your employer about pay for the hours you have worked or if you decide to file an official complaint.

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.

What scheduled rest breaks and what days off will I have?

You're entitled to one 30-minute paid or unpaid break after the first 5 hours of work for shifts that are between 5 and 10 hours long. This rest period can be one 30-minute break, or two 15-minute breaks. When you work a shift that is less than 5 hours, your employer does not have to provide a break. When you work a shift that is 10 hours or longer, you are entitled to one 60-minute break, two 30-minute breaks, or four 15-minute breaks. Breaks may be paid or unpaid, depending on the decision of your employer. 

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. Visit Hours of work and rest for more information, including exceptions to the rules mentioned above.

What happens if I work overtime?

Your employer may ask you to work overtime. Typically, 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 beyond this threshold. There are some exceptions: for example, for domestic employees such as nannies. There are also some industries and occupations with different overtime thresholds: for example, trucking and ambulance attendants.

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 there is a collective agreement that gives you a better rate. If you are working under an overtime agreement to bank those hours, your employer also has the option to provide time off in-lieu of overtime pay.

An overtime agreement allows employers and employees the option to create straight-time banked hours arrangements. As an employee, this means that for every hour of overtime you bank, you can later take that time off with regular pay. You must take this time off within 6 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.

For more information on overtime rules in Alberta, visit Overtime hours and overtime pay.

Your employer might have you work your hours according to an averaging arrangement. See Averaging arrangements for more information.

Leaving your job temporarily

Job-protected leaves

There are a number of leaves you may take to deal with personal or family situations, such as illness, without having to worry about losing your job. When you return from a qualified leave, you must come back to either your same job or an equal job.

For a list of these leaves and more details on how they work, visit Job-protected leaves.

Temporary layoffs and recalls

Your employer can temporarily lay you off for up to 60 days within a 120-day period without giving a termination notice. 

Your employer must send you written notice:

  • 1 week before the layoff if you’ve been employed for 2 years or less
  • 2 weeks in advance of the layoff if you’ve been employed for more than 2 years

If you do not receive proper notice, you may be entitled to termination notice and pay.

If you have not been recalled to work within 60 days, your employer must provide termination notice and pay, unless they agree to pay wages and/or benefits during your layoff. The 60-day rules do not apply if you work for the school system or drive a school bus. During your layoff, your employer may call you back to work with 1 week written notice. If you do not return to work within 1 week, you are not entitled to termination notice or termination pay.

See Temporary layoffs for more information.

Leaving your job permanently

You may decide on your own to quit a job permanently to take other work, to study or for other reasons.

Your employer can only terminate your employment for certain reasons. For example, they can’t terminate you on any of the 15 grounds protected under the Alberta Human Rights Act [pdf], or because you are on a job-protected leave.

Written notice required

If your employer terminates you because, for example, they’re downsizing, then your employer must provide written notice. The longer you’ve worked for them, the more notice the employer must provide.

Also, once you give notice, your employer can’t reduce your pay or any other conditions of your employment, such as hours, salary, status, or benefits. Whether you give notice or your employer gives notice to you, they can’t force you to use vacation pay, overtime, or general holidays during the notice period. These entitlements must be included in your final pay.

Once your employer gives you notice, they can ask you to stop working immediately or partway through a notice period instead of giving notice. But then your employer must pay you the wages you would have earned if you had worked during the remaining notice period.

Sometimes employers dismiss many employees at once, such as if they’re downsizing. In that case, they must follow the same rules for giving notice as if they’re laying off many employees at once.

Just cause

Your employer can ask you to leave your job with just cause without giving notice. It has to be shown or proven, for example, that you have

  • Falsified qualifications
  • Engaged in sexual harassment
  • Set up a competing interest such as a similar business
  • Failed to follow health and safety requirements
  • Engaged in theft, fraud or dishonesty
  • Demonstrated insolence (disrespectful behaviour) or insubordination (refusal to obey instructions)

When your employer lets you go for just cause, they must ensure your rights under the Alberta Human Rights Act are met. For most infractions, an employee must receive written warnings prior to being fired.

Final pay on leaving

When you leave a job permanently, you are entitled to receive your final pay within certain time periods. Your termination pay must equal at least the same amount you would have earned if you’d worked regular hours for the termination period.

If your pay varied from one pay period to another, your employer must use the weekly average of your regular wages for the 13 weeks in which you worked prior to the date of your termination, not just the 13 calendar weeks before your termination.

For more detailed information about pay when a job ends, visit Termination and termination pay.

Collecting Employment Insurance (EI)

Eligible workers who leave work temporarily (more than 7 days) may be able to collect Employment Insurance (EI). If you qualify, EI also provides temporary financial help for special benefits if you receive below 60% of your usual pay and if you are:

  • Pregnant or caring for a newborn or adopted child, or have recently given birth
  • Sick, injured, or in quarantine, and, if not for this condition, would otherwise be available for work
  • Providing compassionate care for a family member who is seriously ill with a significant risk of death within 26 weeks
  • Providing care to your child who is critically ill or injured
  • An apprentice taking in-school technical training

Eligible workers who are let go permanently from their job may be able to collect EI. To qualify, you must have worked a certain number of hours within the past year. Once you’ve been let go permanently from your job, to collect EI you must be available and looking for other work. For this reason or because you may not have worked enough insurable hours, usually you can’t claim EI if you are a full-time student.

To collect EI, you must have worked, paid into EI, and earned the required insurable hours in the qualifying period.

When applying for EI, your employer must prepare and give you a Record of Employment (ROE) within 5 days of your last pay period. The ROE shows when you were employed, what you were paid, and why you stopped work.

You need an ROE to collect EI benefits. The information provided on your ROE is used to decide how much EI you can collect and for how long. If your employer refuses to issue an ROE, contact EI.

Visit Employment Insurance benefits and leave for more information on applying for EI benefits.

Youth employment

Am I old enough to work for you?

Employees under 18 years old have specific rules under Alberta’s laws. The minimum wage for students under 18 years old is $13.00 per hour. See Student wage rates for more information.

Under the rules, employers need to comply with restrictions that apply to the following age groups:

  • 12 years of age and under
  • 13 to 14 years of age
  • 15 to 17 years of age

12 years old and under can only be hired for artistic endeavours, and require a permit, as well as parent or guardian consent. Restrictions for 13 to 14 year olds include hours of work and types of work. Restrictions for 15 to 17 year olds include hours of work for specific jobs. For more information on hiring youth, visit Youth employment laws.

Other considerations

Receiving Workers' Compensation Coverage

Most Alberta industries are required to provide workers’ compensation coverage. Regardless of your age, the Alberta Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB) provides this no-fault liability and disability insurance for work-related injuries and illnesses. You may want to ask your supervisor or employer if you are covered by WCB.

For more information about workers’ compensation, contact the Workers’ Compensation Board of Alberta.

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.

Have an Employment Standards complaint?

Talking with your employer is always the first step before you submit a complaint. If your issue cannot be resolved, you can file an Employment Standards complaint online

If you need assistance, please call the Employment Standards Contact Centre:

Edmonton: 780-427-3731
Toll-free: 1-877-427-3731
TTY: 780-427-9999
Toll-free TTY: 1-800-232-7215

This article is intended as general information only and does not take the place of the Employment Standards Code. Consult the Employment Standards Code [pdf] or the Employment Standards website for detailed information.

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