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Working Wise: Pay Cuts

Dear Working Wise,

Our company is asking us to take a pay cut. Can my employer reduce my rate of pay when my job responsibilities haven’t changed and I haven’t had any disciplinary issues? Does it matter if ownership of the company has changed to a new owner? Are they still allowed to cut my pay?
Signed, Feeling Cheated

May 17, 2016

Dear Feeling Cheated,

I wish I had better news for you, but yes, your employer can reduce your rate of pay as long as they continue to meet minimum wage requirements.

Your compensation is a matter that you, or in some cases your bargaining unit if you are in a union, negotiate with your employer. The only exception might be if you are working under a contract that guarantees you a certain wage.

Alberta’s Employment Standards, however, do require employers to give you adequate notice of the pay change and comply with Alberta’s minimum wage laws.

An employer who wants to reduce an employee's pay must notify the employee before the pay period begins.

If you would like to learn more about protections for workers and their earnings, visit the Alberta Employment Standards website and read the Employment Standards fact sheets on Payment of Earnings and Minimum Wage.

If you have any other questions, I encourage you to call the Employment Standards Contact Centre, toll-free, at 1-877-427-3731 (780-427-3731 in Edmonton).

Everyone wants to feel like they are being treated fairly at work. And knowledge is power. If you do not feel that you are being paid a competitive salary at your current job, do a little research.

  • The Wages and Salaries section on OCCinfo provides the average wages for more than 400 occupations and is based on the Alberta Wage and Salary Survey. This database even provides a salary range if you click on a specific occupation.
  • You can also check out some of the online career websites., for example, has a free online salary wizard, which allows you to check salary ranges by occupation and geographic location.
  • Check current job postings or try talking to someone in a similar job or field. You can also try checking to see if your professional association conducts salary surveys or tracks the trends.

Your research might help you build a compelling case for a raise or help you decide if it is time to look for a job elsewhere.

If you would like more help, check out the job search tools on alis or visit a Alberta Works Centre nearest you.

Good luck!

Photo Credit: © iStockphoto/courtyardpix

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