Employment Standards Changes: Bill 17 too costly to ignore

Bill 17, the Fair and Family-friendly Workplaces Act, will amend Alberta’s Employment Standards and Labour Relation Codes with many of the changes to Employment Standards being effective January 1, 2018. The new Act will require businesses to update their employment practices and to educate their managers on the changes. Failure to educate managers will place organizations at risk, as failure to comply with legislation could mean costly fines; employment standards or human rights complaints; investigations; poor morale and damage to your employment brand. Do you know what these legislative changes are and the impact the changes will have on your business and how you will implement and train your managers on new employment practices? The changes to the legislation are significant and are summarized in the attached link Workplace Legislation Changes.

Updating policy and procedure manuals and employee handbooks will be important, however, the most important consideration will be proactively training managers on the changes and ensuring that they understand the implications of the changes and entitlements of employees. Unfortunately, managers all too often deny entitlement to employees they supervise because they don’t know the legislation. They also don’t understand in many cases the complexity of issues covered under the legislation and that applying the legislation is not always straight forward. Often well intended managers make decisions on employee issues without being properly trained on employee rights, which can result in a Human Rights complaint. The Globe and Mail published an interesting and rather alarming article in 2010 about the cost of Human Rights complaints and although the article is seven years old the costs are still real and relevant in 2017 – Human Rights Cost Concerns.

New entitlement with respect to overtime, vacation, leaves, rest periods and terminations are all changes in the legislation that managers are going to need to understand in order to effectively supervise staff. Mistakes can be costly; for example, a mistake in calculating overtime may mean retroactive payments or an employment standards complaint (Employment Standards Complaint) which could involve an audit of your payroll records that will tie your accountant up for days as payroll records are reviewed. Not only are audits time consuming and expensive they can negatively impact morale as trust levels are questioned when employees realize that a claim has been filed and an investigation or audit is underway. The potential cost to an organization with respect to overtime will increase under the new legislation as booked overtime will be at a higher rate (1.5 times rather than the current hour for hour). Managers need to manage overtime and it starts with ensuring that the managers understand the rules. Organizations need to teach managers overtime eligibility rules and the rules around managing overtime.

Being proactive and preparing in advance for legislative changes will support your managers and give them the confidence they need to address questions that will inevitable come prior to January 1, 2018. Employees will hear and know about the legislated changes as this will be a topic covered extensively in the media – it already is. Support your managers by engaging them in the process of updating your employee policy manual or handbook and equip them with the answers to employee questions. Your managers will appreciate being ahead of the changes and feel empowered when they have the answers to employee questions.

Salopek & Associates recognizes the importance of ensuring your management team fully understands the implications of Bill 17 and how these employment standards changes will effect your business and employees. If you need help with updating your policy and procedures or offering a workshop to your managers on the changes please give Salopek & Associates a call – we can support you!

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