Whether you already have a job or are looking for your first, you should know your rights as an employee.
Employment is a contract between the employer and the employee. Each party agrees to do certain things. At its most basic, your employer agrees to pay you for the work you do.
The employment relationship is governed by the individual employment contract, the collective agreement (if you are part of a union), and the law.
This article discusses the laws that apply to employees and employers, as well as the administrative bodies that deal with issues under these laws. At the end, I have listed some resources for getting more help.
Both the provincial and federal governments make laws for employers and employees to follow. The federal government makes laws for employees in industries that it regulates. These include shipping and navigation, railways, airports and airlines, radio broadcasting, telecommunications, banks, federal government workers, and First Nations administrations. The provincial government makes laws for most other workers. Each piece of legislation says who it applies to.
The Government of Canada has made the following laws:
- Canada Labour Code – employment standards and occupational health and safety laws that apply to federally-regulated workers across Canada
- Canadian Human Rights Act – human rights laws that apply to federally-regulated workers across Canada
- Employment Insurance Act – sets out EI benefits for eligible Canadian workers
The Government of Alberta has made the following laws:
- Employment Standards Code – employment standards laws for most Alberta workers
- Alberta Human Rights Act – human rights laws that apply to most Alberta workers (and other situations, such as providing goods and services, and renting)
- Labour Relations Code – laws for unions and about the bargaining process
- Occupational Health and Safety Act – laws everyone at a worksite must follow to ensure a safe work environment (includes industry specific standards)
- Workers’ Compensation Act – benefits system for Albertans injured at work
Other provinces and territories have similar legislation as Alberta.
The above are some of the main laws that apply to employees and employers. Of course, there are many more, some which apply only to certain industries or workers.
There are several administrative bodies in Alberta that deal with employment issues. These bodies are created by legislation and are part of the executive branch of government. Some common ones are described below.
Employment Standards resolves issues about Alberta’s employment standards laws. These include paying wages, overtime, vacation pay, sick leaves, termination and more. If you are worried your employer is not meeting employment standards law, you can contact Employment Standards. For federally regulated employees, see Canada’s Labour Program.
Alberta’s Human Rights Commission receives complaints about discrimination in workplaces and by landlords or providers of goods or service. The Commission investigates complaints, encourages the parties to resolve the issues, and makes decisions (usually through the Tribunal) when necessary. The discrimination must be related to one or more grounds (listed in the Act) and lead to a negative result (such as getting fired, not being allowed to rent an apartment, etc.). For federally regulated employees, see the Canadian Human Rights Commission.
The Alberta Labour Relations Board deals with issues between employers and trade unions. Trade unions represent employees to employers or management. The Board applies and interprets Alberta’s labour laws. It investigates issues, encourages parties to resolve their issues, and makes binding rulings when necessary. For federally regulated employees, see Canada’s Labour Program.
Alberta Occupational Health & Safety (OHS) enforces the province’s OHS laws. It inspects worksites, investigates complaints and prosecutes breaches of the law. If you have a concern about the safety of your workplace (including unsafe or dangerous work, injuries or incidents), you can file a complaint anonymously with OHS. For federally regulated employs, see the Canada Industrial Relations Board.
The Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB) supports Albertans injured at work. If you are hurt at work and need more than first aid or if you miss time from work, you should report the injury to your employer and then to WCB.
Besides the boards and offices listed above, there are lots of resources available to help you if you have questions or concerns related to your work.
The Workers’ Resource Centre (WRC) supports Alberta workers with employment-related issues. Talk with them about Employment Insurance, lost wages (Employment Standards), workplace injuries, human rights, CPP-disability, short and long-term disability, and AISH.
You can also reach out to a legal clinic in your area that provides pro bono (free) legal services. Most have income thresholds you must be under. Find a list of legal clinics on LawCentral Alberta.
The Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta (CPLEA) creates free legal information resources to help you understand your rights as an employee. See our:
- Info sheets and booklets about what to do after you have lost your job, human rights at work and more
- FAQs about employment standards and OHS laws
- LawNow articles about a variety of employment law topics
- Your Rights at Work webpage
Looking for more information?
And check out these free legal information resources from CPLEA:
- Your Rights at Work (includes FAQs, info sheets and more)
The information in this article was correct at time of publishing. The law may have changed since then. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of LawNow or the Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta.
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