Workers’ Rights in Alberta

Settlement ISC Community, Employment, Newcomer Information

Settling in a new place often means getting a new job. Depending on what country you worked in previously, you may find that the rules are quite different from what you are used to. Regardless of whether you are at the beginning of your search, already employed, or have been recently terminated, it is important to understand your rights under Alberta laws.

Signing a Contract

The first step of employment is often signing a contract. Although a contract can be implied or verbal, it is wise to have a written contract that sets out the terms of your employment. Not only does it provide certainty regarding what is expected of you and your employer, it also gives one the right to claim against the party that breaches the agreement.

It is important to read the terms of the contract before signing so you are aware of what you are agreeing to. Below are some tips on what to look out for:

  • Minimum standards cannot be avoided.
    • In Alberta, the workers are protected under the Employment Standards Code. Any contract that seeks to disapply the Employment Standards Code are void.
  • Minimum wage
    • Employers are required to pay minimum wage ($15/hr or $13/hr for those under 18 working less than 28 hrs a week during school term).
  • Holiday entitlements
    • Workers are generally entitled to 2 weeks of paid holiday after each year during first 4 years of employment, and 3 weeks each year after 5 consecutive years of employment.

Work Safety

During employment, workers are protected by the Occupational Health and Safety Act. Under the Act, employers have the responsibility to ensure that workers are trained to protect their health and safety. Where applicable, employers are also responsible for ensuring that workers are supervised by a competent person familiar with the Act.

A worker has the right to refuse work that the worker reasonably believes to involve danger. The worker must promptly report refusal and the reason for refusal to the employer or a supervisor. The employer or supervisor is then required to remedy the condition or immediately inspect the condition. A worker that refused work on this ground can do so until the dangerous condition is remedied. He/she must still be paid during this period, but can be temporarily reassigned to a different task.

If a worker is injured during the course of work, he/she can file a claim with the Workers’ Compensation Board (“WCB”). Below is a brief overview of the process involved:

  • Report injury:
    • Tell the employer – he/she must report the injury to WCB within 72 hrs if the worker needs medical treatment beyond first aid or will miss time;
    • Tell a doctor – he/she must report to WCB within 48 hrs; or
    • File a report of injury with WCB directly.
  •  Claim classification:
    • WCB will classify an injury as either lost-time claim, no-time-lost claim, or interjurisdictional claim.
  • Claim decision:
    • Claim accepted – an adjudicator will contact the worker to discuss benefits and services to help the worker return to work
    • Claim not accepted – after reading the decision, a worker can question it and request a review if unable to resolve the concern with the adjudicator. A request must be made within one year from the date of decision.


An employment contract can usually be terminated by an employer or an employee in accordance with the contract. Generally, an employer must give notice. The duration of the notice depends on the length of employment:

  • Less than 90 days – No notice required
    • 90 days to 2 years – at least 1 week
    • 2 years to 4 years – at least 2 weeks
    • 4 years to 6 years – at least 4 weeks
    • 6 years to 8 years – at least 5 weeks
    • 8 years to 10 years – at least 6 weeks
    • More than 10 years – at least 8 weeks.

*An employer can pay the salary for the duration of notice required instead of giving notice.

** Notice is not required if an employee is terminated for just cause.

An employee can also terminate employment generally by giving at least 1 week of notice for an employment duration of more than 90 days but less than 2 years, or 2 weeks’ notice for employment over 2 years. However, this does not apply if there is an established custom or practice in an industry.