Your Work Schedule – What Are The Rules?

Have you ever worked somewhere that would change your schedule mere hours before you were meant to show up, or that didn’t let you know that you would be working overtime? Understanding the employment rules and standards of the province you live in will ensure that you aren’t being taken advantage of, and keep you safe in your workplace. We've provided you with work schedule rules particular to Alberta below:

The Basics:

You can only work a maximum of 12-hours a day unless an exception occurs – which means an accident happens and urgent work is required (or any other unforeseeable or unpreventable circumstances), or a variance authorizes longer hours.

During your work day, you are entitled to at least a 30 minutes break every 5 hours. If you and your boss agree, you can take that break in 2 periods of at least 15 minutes. Also! You’re also entitled to at least one day of rest each work week.

Daily Hours:

Your workday must be confined to 12 hours of the same day – unless an exception (see above) occurs.

Notice of work times:

Your employer must notify you of the time that work starts and ends. Your employer can do this by posting notices at work, where they can be seen by employees, or by other reasonable methods.

Rest between shifts:

You can’t be required to change from one shift to another without at least 24 hours’ written notice and at least 8 hours’ rest between shifts.

Daily rest periods (breaks):

You are entitled to at least 30 minutes of rest – paid or unpaid – in each shift that is 5 consecutive hours of work, unless one of the following occurs:

· an accident occurs or urgent work is required

· other unforeseeable or unpreventable circumstances

· different break arrangements have been made through a collective agreement, or

· it’s not reasonable for you to take a rest period; and if you’re unable to take your break, then it must be paid

Remember: That’s just the bare minimum. Your boss can definitely give you more breaks.

Paid vs. unpaid breaks:

Your breaks can be paid or unpaid at your boss’s discretion. However, if your employer places restrictions on your activities during a break, such as prohibiting you from leaving the premises, the break must be paid.

Length of shifts:

· If you work less than 5 hours, your employer does not have to provide a break

· If you work 5 hours or longer, your employer must provide at least 30 minutes of break every 5 hours

· Your 30 minutes of break can be taken in one unbroken period

· If you both agree, the 30 minute break can also be taken in two 15-minute periods

Days of rest:

You are entitled to at least 1 day of rest each work week. Furthermore, work weeks can be combined so you receive the following days of rest:

· 2 consecutive days of rest in each period of 2 consecutive work weeks

· 3 consecutive days of rest in each period of 3 consecutive work weeks

· 4 consecutive days of rest in each period of 4 consecutive work weeks

Remember, every employer must allow each employee at least 4 consecutive days of rest after each period of 24 consecutive work days. So if you’re working out of town, working on a roster and flying in and out, for instance, they must follow those rules.

Travel Time:

Speaking of out-of-town work, as far as travel time goes, your employer is only required to pay you for travel time that’s considered work. What does that mean?

According to Alberta Employment Standards, any travel time that occurs after you start to provide services would be recorded as work hours. If a collective agreement is in place, provisions in the agreement may determine how travel time is managed. If not covered by a collective agreement, travel time is considered work when an employee, whether driver or passenger:

· goes from your workplace or a place designated by your boss to a work site; or

· goes from one job site to another job site; or

· is directed to pick up materials or perform other tasks on the way to work or home

Rate of pay:

Travel time hours may be paid out at a different rate of pay, as long as you know ahead of time and the rate is at least minimum wage.

When is travel time not work?

In general, home-to-work and work-to-home travel isn’t considered time spent working. If your employer pays you for this travel time, the payment would not generally be considered wages. Travel time is not considered work when you are given the choice, or an agreement between the employer and employee or union is in place, to:

· provide their own transportation to or from the work location, or

· report to a certain point from which you may access transportation provided by your employer

Employees attending a compulsory meeting or scheduled training session:

If the meeting or training occurs on your regularly scheduled day off, you must be paid at least the minimum wage and overtime if applicable. If the meeting or training is less than 3 hours in length, the 3-hour minimum rule applies.

Employees ‘on call’ or ‘on standby’ at home:

If you aren’t required to perform work at home, no payment is required; being ‘on call’ or ‘on standby’ is not actually considered work. But if you are required to work at home, you must be paid for hours worked at your regular rate of pay, plus applicable overtime, for the actual time worked.

If you’re required to leave home and report to the worksite, the minimum compensation for short periods of work is applicable once the employee reports to work.

What is the 3-hour minimum?

Sometimes you might be asked to work for short periods, or you’ll come in and won’t actually be needed and can be sent home. So unless your company has a variance, the following minimum standards apply:

· You must be paid for at least 3 hours of pay at the minimum wage each time you’re required to report to work, or come to work for short periods. This 3-hour minimum doesn’t apply if you aren’t available to work the full 3 hours.

· If you work for fewer than 3 consecutive hours, your employer must pay wages that are at least equal to 3 hours at the minimum wage.

· If your regular wage is greater than the minimum wage, your boss may pay you for less than 3 hours of work at this higher rate.

What is the 2-hour minimum?

If your job is listed below, you must be paid minimum compensation for at least 2 hours at not less than minimum wage:

· school bus drivers

· part-time employees of non-profit recreation or athletic programs run by a municipality, Métis Settlement or community service organization

· home care employees

· 13, 14 and 15 year olds who work on a school day

How about split shifts?

If you’re required to work a split shift and there’s more than a 1-hour break between the 2 segments of the shift, you must be paid the minimum compensation required for each segment of your shift.

Note that there are certain industries and occupations with exceptions. Check out this site if you think that might apply to you:


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