Notes from the MLA: Making life better for working families in Alberta

Danielle Larivee
MLA for Lesser Slave Lake

Our government believes that all Albertans deserve to be treated fairly when they go to work, and that working Albertans deserve fair and family-friendly workplace laws that support a strong economy and ensure they can take care of their families.

That’s why our government approved The Fair and Family-friendly Workplaces Act in June 2017, with changes to the Employment Standards Code coming in effect on Jan. 1 of this year.

Now working Albertans get to enjoy the benefits of new and modernized employment standards that meet the needs of today’s workplaces.

The need for change was apparent, as Albertans heard last year when Lethbridge mother Amanda Jensen shared her story. She was fired from her job after she asked to take time off to care for her seven-year-old child who was diagnosed with cancer. She didn’t qualify for job-protected leave and so had to make the kind of decision that no mother should ever have to make. She chose to spend the time caring for her son, but knowing she lost her job because of that choice made things harder for her and her family.

Jensen’s story was heartbreaking, but sadly was not unique, given that Alberta’s workplace laws hadn’t been updated since 1988 – the same year a young and bright-eyed Tom Hanks starred in Big. Families all across the province, including right here in Lesser Slave Lake, faced similar challenges. It’s just not right that they were denied the same kind of protection as other Canadians in other provinces.

I’m proud to have supported this legislation that will make life better for Alberta’s workers after 30 years of inaction by the previous conservative government. Our workplace laws were out of date and out of step with the rest of the country, and this change finally brought them in line with what other Canadian workers enjoy.

There are several key changes that will help workers and their families in Lesser Slave Lake and across Alberta. Different types of job-protected leaves have been introduced, improved or expanded.

This includes sick leave, long-term illness and injury leave, leave to care for critically injured adults and children, bereavement leave, domestic-violence leave, and leave in the case of the death or disappearance of a child. Maternity, parental and compassionate-care leave has been expanded to better align with federal benefits under the Employment Insurance program.

Furthermore, Albertans will be eligible for these types of leaves after 90 days of employment, rather than eligibility after one year as existed prior to the changes. Albertans working overtime will be able to bank that time at a rate of 1.5 times the number of hours worked, rather than on a one-to-one basis.

We have also introduced new standards for termination and layoffs, and implemented a new penalty system for employers found to be breaching the code or regulations.

Workers are the backbone of our economy and are a major driver of our prosperity, here in Lesser Slave Lake, and across the province.

I’m proud our government has implemented these fair and balanced laws to protect the rights of hard-working Albertans and their families.

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