Workers' Rights

The information below is not intended as legal advice.

Workers in Alberta have rights at work that are protected by law.

These standards are the minimum required by law, and you as an employee cannot sign them away. The Employment Standards Code states clearly:

An agreement that this Act or a provision of it does not apply, or that the remedies provided by it are not to be available for an employee, is against public policy and void.

The information contained below applies to almost all workers in Alberta, but is intended primarily for workers who do not belong to unions.

Unionized workers should check their collective agreement or talk to their shop steward or union representative to find out what their rights at work are. Most collective agreements give the workers’ rights that go beyond the minimum set by law.

If further information is required, the Alberta Labour Relations Board can be contacted at 1-800-463-2572 or on their website.

If you work in a non-unionized work environment, you can contact Alberta Employment Standards. They can be reached at 780-427-3731 or 1-877-427-3731

Monday to Friday, from 8:15 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Or you can contact them by visiting their website.

Do you need to make a complaint?
The step-by-step process on how to file a complaint can be found here.

Know Your Rights Links


What is the minimum wage in Alberta?
Alberta’s general minimum wage is $15 per hour. As of July 26th, 2019, students under the age of 18 have a lower minimum wage of $13 per hour. This lower minimum wage only applies to the first 28 hours worked in a week when school is in session—subsequent hours past 28, must be paid at $15 per hour. The youth minimum wage does not apply to workers under the age of 18 who are not enrolled in an education institution.

My boss says I have to pay for my uniform. Is that legal?
No. Deductions for uniforms aren’t allowed. This includes any costs associated with the purchase, use, cleaning or repair of a uniform, or any other special article of wearing apparel that an employee is required to wear during their hours of work.

My boss tells me that I have to be at work 15 minutes before my shift, but I don’t start getting paid until I actually start. Can they do that?
No. Any time you are required to be at work your employer has to pay you.

How many breaks am I entitled to in a day?
You are entitled to 30 minutes of rest after every five hours of work. It can be paid or unpaid, and can be broken up into 10 minute blocks, 15 minute blocks, or taken all together. It’s up to the employer. However, you cannot work past five hours without a break of some kind.

I work in a restaurant. My boss makes me pay if a table skips out on a bill. Are they allowed to do this? No. Employment Standards say that employers cannot deduct for cash shortages or loss of property if an individual other than the employee has access to the cash or property or if a customer failed to pay.

This also means that an employer cannot have you contribute to a ‘dine and dash’ fund to cover for shortages.

If, however, you are the only person with access to a cash register and there is money missing, the employer can deduct it from your pay.

You can be sent home early from work, but an employer cannot pay you for less than 3 hours of work, no matter how long you worked before being sent home.

I just started at a restaurant and my employer says that the first three days is training, so he’s not paying me. Is this legal?
No. If you are required to be at work, you are entitled to wages.

When do I have to be paid overtime?
You are entitled to overtime pay if you work more than 8 hours in a day or 44 hours in a week. Overtime pay must be at least 1.5 times your regular rate of pay for the overtime. 

Some employers will offer alternative overtime agreements, such as time off with pay, which is calculated at 1.5 hours off for each hour of overtime. Employers do have the power to propose straight time banking overtime agreements.

I’ve been working at my job for two years and my boss just came in and said that he didn’t need me to work anymore. What can I do?
Unfortunately, employers can fire you at any time for almost any reason, or for no good reason at all. The only law is that they must give you notice. How much notice you’re entitled to depends on how long you’ve been there:

  • 0-3 months: no notice
  • 3 months-2 years: 1 week notice
  • 2 years-4 years: 2 weeks notice
  • 4 years-6 years: 4 weeks notice
  • 6 years-8 years: 5 weeks notice
  • 8 years-10 years: 6 weeks notice
  • 10 + years: 8 weeks notice

The employer can also ‘pay you out’ instead of giving you notice by paying the salary you would have earned over the notice period.

Notice is not required if you are fired for ‘just cause’ such as if you are caught stealing or if you were hired for a term position that has ended.

I was scheduled to work on Tuesday starting at noon, but on Monday afternoon my boss told me I have to come in at 8:00 am instead. Do I have to change the shift?
No. Employers cannot require you to change from one shift to another unless they have given you 24 hours’ notice.


Generally, employers have the right to terminate employees, and employees have the right to quit. These rights come with some responsibilities, primarily to provide adequate notice. The length of such notice is normally dependent on the duration of the employment with the employer.

Generally, employers have the right to terminate employees, and employees have the right to quit. These rights come with some responsibilities, primarily to provide adequate notice. The length of such notice is normally dependent on the duration of the employment with the employer.

In theory your boss has no right to fire you for using your legal rights, because you’re pregnant or because of your race or other forms of discrimination. Generally, you can’t be fired for union activities or for filing a complaint under labour standards. Unfortunately, employers all too often fire workers without just cause or in violation of their rights and there is often little a worker in Alberta can do about it.


All employees who have been employed continuously for more than three months are entitled to termination notice or pay if notice is not given. The amount of notice you are entitled to depends on how long you’ve been working.

The minimum notice that employers must give is:

  • 1 week for employment of more than 3 months, but less than 2 years
  • 2 weeks for employment of 2 years, but less than 4 years,
  • 4 weeks for employment of 4 years, but less than 6 years,
  • 5 weeks for employment of 6 years, but less than 8 years,
  • 6 weeks for employment of 8 years, but less than 10 years, and
  • 8 weeks for employment of 10 years or more.

An employer can give pay for the required notice period instead of providing notice or give a combination of written notice and pay. The employer must pay all wages, overtime, general holiday pay and vacation pay within three days following termination.

Employees who wish to quit are also required to give written notice:

  • 1 week for employment of more than three months, but less than two years
  • 2 weeks for employment of 2 years or more.

If you give proper notice, the employer must pay all earnings to you within three days following termination of employment. If you quit without proper notice all earnings are due to you within 10 days after the date on which the notice would have expired if it had been given.


There are a number of circumstances notice of termination is not required, mostly in circumstances where termination is for “just cause,” such as:

  • willful misconduct,
  • disobedience, or
  • deliberate neglect of duty

Employers can also terminate employment without notice when:

  • the employee was hired for a definite term or task of less than 12 months,
  • the employee was laid off after refusing an offer by the employer of reasonable alternative work,
  • the employee refuses work made available through a seniority system,
  • the employee is not provided with work because a strike or lockout is taking place at the employee’s place of employment,
  • the employee is employed under an agreement by which the employee may elect either to work or not to work for a temporary period when requested by the employer,
  • the contract of employment is or has become impossible for the employer to perform by reason of unforeseeable or unpreventable causes beyond the control of the employer,
  • the employee was hired on a seasonal basis and at the end of the season the employment is terminated,
  • the employee is on temporary layoff and does not return to work within seven days after being requested to do so in writing by the employer,
  • the employee is in the construction industry,
  • the employee is employed in the cutting, removal, burning or other disposal of trees and/or brush for the primary purpose of clearing land.

When an employee’s employment is terminated for just cause, the employer must be able to support the position that they had just cause and must pay all earnings due to you within ten days following the date of termination.

As an employee, you are not required to give termination notice if:

  • your health or safety is at risk by continuing to work
  • continuing to work becomes impossible due to unforeseeable or unpreventable circumstances beyond your control
  • you are temporarily laid off
  • no work is provided to the employee because there is a strike or lockout at your place of employment
  • you are employed under an agreement by which the you may elect either to work or not to work for a temporary period when requested by the employer
  • the employer reduces your wage rate, overtime rate, vacation pay, general holiday pay or termination pay.


Your boss doesn’t have to give notice or pay compensation if you’re laid off temporarily. A layoff is not considered temporary if you have been laid off for 60 days within a 120 day period, in which case you are considered to be terminated and entitled to termination pay. But there are some exceptions:

  • If, after your layoff began, you and your boss agreed that you would get wages or an amount instead of wages. In this case, you’re eligible for termination pay only when the agreement ends.
  • If your boss is making payments towards your pension or insurance plan, or a similar benefit. After your job ends, you’re eligible for termination pay when the payments stop.
  • If you’re unionized, and your contract has recall rights. Your job ends and you get termination pay when the recall rights expire.

Your employer has to ask you to return to work in writing. If you don’t go back within 7 days, your boss can let you go without further notice or termination pay.

If you are let go while on temporary lay-off, you’re still entitled to termination pay.

Temporary layoff rules do not apply to school workers and school bus drivers when the summer break exceeds 59 days.


Alberta law also protects workers from discrimination in the workplace. The primary legislation that covers human rights in Alberta is the Alberta Human Rights Act.

Except in cases of bona fide occupational requirements, employers are prohibited from discriminating against individuals when placing job advertising, accepting applications, employing an individual or setting the terms of conditions because of a person’s:

  • race
  • religious beliefs
  • colour
  • gender
  • gender identity
  • gender expression
  • physical disability
  • mental disability
  • age
  • ancestry
  • place of origin
  • marital status
  • source of income or
  • family status

The Act also has provisions regarding pay equity between men and women. Section 6 of the act states:

Where employees of both sexes perform the same or substantially similar work for an employer in an establishment the employer
shall pay the employees at the same rate of pay.

There are three important, but different ideas we’re talking about when we say pay equity:

Equal Pay for Equal Work. This addresses the more overt form of discrimination in wages on the basis of gender. It involves direct comparison of jobs occupied by the opposite genders where the job is the same or basically the same.

Equal Pay for Equal Work.
This addresses the more overt form of discrimination in wages on the basis of gender. It involves direct comparison of jobs occupied by the opposite genders where the job is the same or basically the same.

Equal Pay for Work of Equal Value.
This provides for reducing the wage gap by comparing jobs of a different nature that are considered “male” or “female” jobs.

Pay Equity Laws.
This refers to legislated programs that aim to achieve equity in pay in an organized manner. Pay equity laws are most often proactive in that they don’t require a complaint to be filed in order to achieve their goal. They use specific targets and deadlines and the collective bargaining process to achieve their aims.

The Human Rights Act also states that no union or occupational association can exclude a person from membership, expel or suspend a member or discriminate against a member in any way because of the reasons above.


Vacation Time
In Alberta, you are entitled to annual vacations, depending on how long you have worked:

  • after one year of employment, you are entitled to two weeks vacation with pay,
  • after five years, you are entitled to three weeks vacation with pay.

You must take your vacation within 12 months after you become entitled to the vacation.

Vacations must be given in one unbroken period unless you request to take your vacation in shorter periods. These periods must last at least one day long.

If a mutually acceptable time for your vacation cannot be found, the employer can decide on the time, but you must receive at least two weeks notice in writing of the start date of the vacation.

Vacation Pay
If you are paid an hourly wage, vacation pay is:

  • 4 per cent of your wages for the first 4 years of employment
  • 6 per cent of your wages for the 5th and all subsequent years.

If you are paid a monthly salary, you are entitled to receive your regular rate of pay for your vacation time.

You are entitled to your vacation pay on the next regularly scheduled payday or at the request of the employee, at least one day before the vacation begins. Many employers simply add your vacation pay onto your regular paycheque.

Pregnancy and Parental Leave
Birth Mothers can take up to 16 weeks of unpaid maternity leave. Parents are also entitled to take up 62 weeks of unpaid parental leave. Parental leave can be taken by both the birth mother, the other parent, adoptive parents, or shared between both parents.


To be eligible for maternity and/or parental leave, you must have 90 days of employment with your employer, whether you are a full-time or part-time employee.

Maternity leave can begin at any time within 12 weeks of the estimated date of delivery.

Parental leave can begin at any time after the birth or adoption of the child but it must be completed within 52 weeks of the date a baby is born or an adopted child is placed with the parent.

The following conditions apply to maternity and/or paternal leave:

  • During the twelve weeks before the estimated date of delivery, the employer can require the employee to start maternity leave if the pregnancy is interfering with job performance. The employee must be notified in writing.
  • An employee, who takes both maternity leave and parental leave, must take the leaves consecutively.
  • An employee must take at least six weeks of maternity leave after the birth of their child, unless the employee provides a medical certificate indicating that resumption of work is not a health risk.
  • If both parents work for the same employer, the employer is not required to grant leave to both employees at the same time.

Giving Notice
You must give the employer at least six weeks written notice about when you intend to start maternity leave or parental leave. The employer may demand a medical certificate certifying pregnancy and giving the estimated date of delivery.

If the employee fails to give the necessary notice she is still entitled to maternity leave if she notifies the employer within 2 weeks of her last day at work and provides a medical certificate.

An employee who takes maternity leave is not required to give her employer notice before going on parental leave, unless she originally agreed only to take 16 weeks of maternity leave.

Parents will still be eligible for the leave if medical reasons, or circumstances related to the adoption, prevent the employee from giving this notice. When this happens, written notice must be given to the employer as soon as possible.

If you intend to share parental leave with your partner, you must advise your respective employers of your intention to do so.

You must give at least four weeks written notice that you intend to return to work or to change the return date. This notice must be provided at least four weeks before the end of the leave. An employer does not have to reinstate an employee until four weeks after receipt of this notice.

If you fail to provide this notice, or fail to report to work the day after the leave ends, the employer is under no obligation to reinstate you unless the failure is the result of unforeseen or unpreventable circumstances.

You are also required to provide four weeks written notice if you do not intend to return to work after the leave ends.

Employers may choose to extend leave beyond 52 weeks, but they are under no legal obligation to do so.

Employer Obligations
An employer cannot terminate an employee on maternity or parental leave, unless the employer suspends or discontinues the business.

Employees returning from maternity or parental leave must be reinstated in the same or a comparable position with earnings and other benefits at least equal to those received when the leave began.

If the business has been suspended or discontinued during the employee’s maternity or parental leave, the employee has hiring priority if the business starts up again within 12 months after the end of the leave.

Human rights legislation also imposes certain obligations regarding the duty to accommodate pregnant employees and with respect to the application of sick leave provisions.


Employment Standards
Most complaints related to work are covered by employment standards. If you think your boss has violated your employment rights (such as payment, holidays, etc.) contact your local Employment Standards Office. To find your local office, call the province-wide Employment Standards number toll-free by dialing 310-0000, then dialing (780) 427-3731.

The Employment Standards website is:

Complaints can be made at any time during employment or within six months of leaving a job. If you are still employed, keep in mind that your boss will be notified and will receive a copy of the complaint. This makes it difficult to file complaints since, even though it is illegal, many employers retaliate against employees who file complaints.

Human Rights
A person who thinks their human rights have been violated can file a complaint with the Alberta Human Rights and Citizenship Commission.

To call toll-free within Alberta, dial 310-0000 and then enter the area code and phone number.

Alberta Human Rights and Citizenship Commission
Northern Regional Office
800 Standard Life Centre
10405 Jasper Avenue
Edmonton, Alberta T5J 4R7
Confidential Inquiry Line: (780) 427-7661
Fax: (780) 427-6013

Southern Regional Office
200 John J. Bowlen Building
620 – 7 Avenue SW
Calgary AB   T2P 0Y8
Confidential Inquiry Line: 403-297-6571
Fax:   403-297-6567

For province-wide free access from a cellular phone, enter *310 (for Rogers Wireless) or #310 (for Telus and Bell).

TTY service for persons who are deaf or hard of hearing
Edmonton: (780) 427-1597
Calgary: (403) 297-5639

Toll-free within Alberta 1-800-232-7215

The Alberta Human Rights and Citizenship Commission website is:

A complaint must be made to the Alberta Human Rights and Citizenship Commission within one year after the alleged incident.

Workplace Health & Safety
Workplace health and safety falls under the jurisdiction of Alberta Human Resources and Employment.

For general information about Workplace Health and Safety, contact the Call Centre at 1-866-415-8690 or fax to (780) 422-3730.

Deaf or hearing impaired with TDD/TTY units call (780) 427-9999 (Edmonton) or 1-800-232-7215 in other locations.

The website for Workplace Health and Safety is:

Workers’ Compensation Board
For all general inquiries to the Alberta Workers’ Compensation Board, contact:

Toll-free anywhere in Alberta 1-866- WCB-WCB1 (1-866-922-9221)

Street Address:
9912 – 107 Street, Edmonton
Mailing Address:
PO Box 2415
Edmonton, AB T5J 2S5

Communications Terminal for the Deaf, Hearing and Speech Impaired number is 780-498-7895

The Workers’ Compensation Board website

Other Help
If you’re not sure where to turn to or if you have general inquiries about work in Alberta, you can contact the Alberta Federation of Labour.

If you have specific questions or need help with a health and safety issue, you can contact the Alberta Workers’ Health Centre at:

Toll Free: 1-888-729-4879
In Edmonton: (780) 486-9009
Fax: (780) 483-7632

300, 10140 – 117 Street
Edmonton, AB T5K 1X3

The Alberta Workers’ Health Centre website is:

Copies of Legislation
Legislation that covers you as a worker is available free of charge on-line from the Alberta King’s Printers, and hard copies are also available for a charge.

The most common legislation you may need to reference is at:

Employment Standards Code
Employment Standards Regulation
Labour Relations Code
Workers’ Compensation Act
Workers’ Compensation Regulation
Alberta Human Rights Act

Contact the Alberta King’s Printer:

Main Floor, Park Plaza
10611 – 98 Avenue,
Edmonton, AB T5K 2P7

Phone: (780) 427-4952
Fax: (780) 452-0668

Office hours: 8:15 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday – Friday (except statutory holidays).

You can call the King’s Printer toll-free in Alberta by dialing 310-0000 followed by the 10 digit phone number of the office you wish to contact.

The Alberta King’s Printer website is