The Provincial Government Introduces Sweeping Changes to Alberta's Workplaces

Bennett Jones LLP

Bennett Jones LLPWhen the United Conservative Party (UCP) took power in Alberta in 2019, the government introduced Bill 2, An Act to Make Alberta Open for Business, which reversed many of the changes to employment standards and labour relations implemented by the previous provincial government. On July 7, 2020, the UCP introduced Bill 32, Restoring Balance in Alberta's Workplaces Act.

Bill 32 passed its final reading on July 28, 2020, and received Royal Assent on July 29, 2020. Some sections of the bill still require proclamation to come into force.

Bill 32 effectuates further significant changes to Alberta's workplaces, aimed at reducing administrative burdens and red tape, creating efficiencies and costs savings for employers and bringing increased fairness to unionized environments. As Labour Minister Jason Copping said at the July 7, 2020, press conference introducing the legislation, "Significant changes were made under the previous government that pushed the balance toward the union side. We needed to make some changes to restore that balance."

Bill 32 changes a number of key provisions in the Employment Standards Code, RSA 2000, c E-9, (ESC), and the Labour Relations Code, RSA 2000, c L-1 (LRC), including modifications to the layoff provisions, group termination provisions, the required timing of payments upon termination of employment, the terms of averaging agreements (now averaging arrangements), the remedial certification provisions, the certification and revocation timelines, the reverse onus provisions in relation to unfair labour practice complaints, and the construction sector provisions in Part 3 of the LRC. Bill 32 has also introduced highly contentious changes in relation to the payment of union dues and trade union financial disclosure to members.

Given the breadth of the changes ushered in by Bill 32, employers in both unionized and non-unionized environments should carefully review and consider the impact of Bill 32 on their workplaces, as the legislation presents opportunities for cost savings and efficiencies. The full details of Bill 32 can be found on the Government of Alberta's website, however, at a high level, the practical application of these changes is that Alberta's employers will have greater flexibility in responding to these challenging economic times.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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