Province updates rules for employers and workers

by Morinville News Staff

The Government of Alberta announced temporary rules it says would provide job protection for workers and flexibility for employers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Premier Jason Kenney announced the changes during Monday’s briefing with Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health. The government says the actions would allow employers to respond to public health measures appropriately while remaining attached to jobs and having the ability to access federal assistance programs.

“The health and safety of Albertans continues to be our top priority. The Government of Alberta is doing everything it can to help contain the spread of COVID-19,” said Minister of Labour and Immigration Jason Copping in a media release Monday. “Changes to the Employment Standards Code will ensure Albertans can care for themselves and their loved ones during these challenging times while providing flexibility to Alberta’s job creators.”

Under the changes, employees caring for children affected by school and daycare closures or ill or self-isolated family members due to COVID-19 will have access to unpaid job-protected leave. The 90-day employment requirement is waived and leave length is flexible.

The province is also increasing the maximum time for a temporary layoff from 60 days to 120 days in a move it says will ensure temporarily laid-off employees stay attached to a job longer. That change is retroactive for any COVID-19-related temporary layoffs on or after March 17.

The UCP is also removing the 24-hour written notice requirement for shift changes, and the two weeks’ notice for changes to work schedules for those under an averaging agreement to improve flexibility.

They are also removing the requirement to provide the group termination notice to employees and unions when 50 or more employees are terminated.

The changes announced Monday took effect immediately and will be in place as long as the government determines it is needed and the public health emergency order remains.

Mark von Schellwitz, vice-president, Western Canada for said his industry has been one of the hardest-hit by COVID-19, with nearly two-thirds of the workforce unemployed.

“These changes to Alberta’s Employment Standards Code will help foodservice businesses adapt as needed to the evolving public health situation so that they can remain operational during this extraordinarily difficult time,” Schellwitz said. “As Alberta’s third-largest private-sector employer, the 150,000 workers typically working in our industry depend on the ability of restaurants to be able to survive and recover from this crisis. These changes will build on our efforts to safeguard public health and ensure business continuity as much as possible. They will help provide the relief our job creators need to reopen and rehire once we get through this crisis”

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