Working Wise | DrumhellerMail - Page #17
09272022Tue
Last updateFri, 23 Sep 2022 3pm

I’m paying my staff a lot of overtime, because business has picked up and I’m having a hard time hiring more qualified people. Can I give my staff “time in lieu”? Can I limit how much or how long can my staff keep their earned overtime?

Dear Working Wise:
I’m paying my staff a lot of overtime, because business has picked up and I’m having a
hard time hiring more qualified people. Can I give my staff “time in lieu”? Can I limit
how much or how long can my staff keep their earned overtime? Signed, Overwhelmed by
Overtime.

Dear Overwhelmed:

For most employees, overtime is all hours worked in excess of eight hours a day or 44
hours a week. Overtime is calculated both on a daily and weekly basis. The higher of the
two numbers is overtime hours worked in the week.

Some types of employees are exempt from the hours of work and overtime standards.
Farm workers, domestic employees, salespeople, professionals, police, and managers are
a few examples.

For all other employees, overtime must be paid at the rate of at least 1.5 times their
regular wage rate. The only exception is when the overtime is accumulated under an
overtime agreement.

Overtime agreements allow employers and employees to replace overtime pay wholly or
partly with paid time off.

An overtime agreement allows overtime hours to be banked and later taken off with
pay during regular work hours. There are a number of rules that apply with respect to
overtime agreements:



The agreement can be between an employer and a single employee, with a group of
employees, or the agreement can be part of a collective agreement.



Overtime hours are calculated the same way under an overtime agreement as they
would be if overtime pay is to be paid at time-and-a-half.



The Code requires an overtime agreement to be in writing. Employers must give
employees who are covered by an overtime agreement a copy of the agreement.

Time off must be taken within three months of the end of the pay period in which the
overtime was earned.





If banked time off is not taken off within three months, then it must be paid out at
time-and-a-half.

Employers can not create a “use it or loose it” type rule for banked overtime. Overtime
can not be lost or taken away even if your overtime agreement says that it can. The
employer must keep track of the banked overtime and how long it has been in the bank.
However, the employer can tell the employee when to take their banked time off.

Employers with special circumstances, e.g., seasonal industries, may apply to
Employment Standards for a permit to extend the period of time that overtime can be
banked.

Check out the Overtime and Overtime pay section under Alberta’s Standards at:
www.employment.alberta.ca/es for more information on overtime and overtime
agreements – including sample agreements you can follow to create your own agreement.

For more information on Alberta Employment Standards or how to apply for an
exemption permit:

Call: 1-877-427-3731
Visit: www.employment.alberta.ca/es
Learn: take the free online Employment Standards course for employers and employees
available on our web site under Education & Promotion.

Do you have a work-related question? Send your questions to Working Wise, at
charles.strachey@gov.ab.ca. Charles Strachey is a manager with Alberta Human
Services. This column is provided for general information.


What information can employers safely divulge about past employees if they get a call for a reference? I've heard different things about liability that have made me shy away from giving anything more than the most basic information.


Dear Working Wise:
What information can employers safely divulge about past employees if they get a call for
a reference? I've heard different things about liability that have made me shy away from
giving anything more than the most basic information. Signed, Afraid to Refer

Dear Afraid:

There are two separate issues regarding employee references. One concerns the privacy
of the employee and the other is fear of litigation.

In Alberta, the Personal Information Protection Act (PIPA) protects privacy in the private
sector, including the collection, use and disclosure of personal information.

An organization may collect, use and disclose personal employee information for
reasonable purposes related to managing or recruiting personnel, including releasing
reference information to another employer. The key is to ensure that the information is
strictly limited to the work relationship.

In one case, a clinic employee disclosed to a prospective employer that the former
employee "did a lot of complaining about her co-workers" and "because of her cancer she
couldn't handle the work."

It was determined that the first comment did not breach PIPA because it is reasonable
performance-related information. The second comment breached legislation, because it
was personal employee information.

The clinic actually had guidelines for giving references, but the employee who gave the
reference failed to follow the guidelines.

Employees have successfully sued their former employers for providing bad references
and some employers have even tried to sue past employers for providing glowing
recommendations for mediocre employees.

In response, some employers have instructed their staff to only provide basic information,
like, “Bob Smith worked for us from May, 2001 until August, 2007, as a marketing
representative.”

This is likely the safest answer, but it’s not likely to help Bob get that next job. Potential
employers might wonder if Bob’s performance was not up to snuff.

So, in the spirit of trying not to get sued, I am providing the following tips for general
information only—consult your lawyer for legal advice.

Tip #1 — Check if your organization has a job-reference policy. If so, follow the policy.
If not, you might want to create one or suggest one that specifies what information should
be provided, if you need verbal or written permission from the employee, and who is

authorized to provide references. Every employee should be aware of the policy and,
ideally, every employee who gives references should be trained to give appropriate and
legal references with confidence.

Tip #2 — Talk to the employee and get their consent before you provide the reference.
Be honest with the employee about the kind of reference you will provide. They may
decide not to use you if you plan to give a mixed reference.

Tip #3 — Be honest, accurate, and specific when you give the reference and stick to
work-related information only. Try to give specific examples to back up your statements.
Avoid characterizing the employee’s personality or sharing your opinions on their
personal life. Don’t speculate, share suspicions, or provide information “off the record”.
Note who called, what they asked and what you said just in case anyone asks.

Tip #4 — Do not divulge personal information that could be used to discriminate against
a job applicant, including: race, religious beliefs, colour, gender, physical disability,
mental disability, age, ancestry, place of origin, marital status, source of income, family
status and sexual orientation. The Alberta Human Rights Act prohibits discrimination
on these grounds. For more information, visit the Alberta Human Rights Commission
website at www.albertahumanrights.ab.ca.

All managers want to see their past hires succeed. They feel a sense of pride that they
were able to help the employee in a small way in their career path. Providing a reference
is one way to do that.

For more tips on giving references, check out the How to Give a Reference tip sheet on
the Alberta Learning Information Service (ALIS) website at www.alis.alberta.ca.

For more information about PIPA, visit www.pipa.gov.ab.ca and check out information
sheet #5 on Personal Employee Information.

Do you have a work-related question? Send your questions to Working Wise, at
charles.strachey@gov.ab.ca. Charles Strachey is a manager with Alberta Human
Services. This column is provided for general information.

I have worked for my employer for more than five years and I have never had a problem booking my vacations. This spring, my employer approved two separate weeks of vacation, but they have now changed their mind. Can they do that?

Dear Working Wise:
I have worked for my employer for more than five years and I have never had a problem
booking my vacations. This spring, my employer approved two separate weeks of
vacation, but they have now changed their mind. Can they do that? Signed, Vacation Cut
Short

Dear Cut Short:

Summer has finally arrived and those campgrounds, lakes, and dreaded backyard
improvement projects are beckoning.

Most employers try to accommodate staff vacation requests, but they are not required by
law to do so.

Under Alberta’s Employment Standards, an employer can decide when an employee
takes their vacation if a mutually acceptable time for an employee's vacation can not be
found.

However, keeping your staff happy—especially with Alberta’s unemployment rate
hovering below five per cent—makes good business sense.

If an employer does decide when an employee is taking their vacation, the employer must
give the employee at least two weeks written notice of the start of their vacation.

Vacations must be given in one unbroken period unless the employee requests to take
their vacation in shorter periods. This is permissible so long as those periods are at least
one day long.

Employees are entitled to two weeks of vacation with pay after one year of employment.
After five years of employment, they are entitled to three weeks vacation with pay.

Vacations must be taken sometime in the 12 months after the employee becomes entitled
to the vacation.

If you are unable to take your vacation, your employer can pay you vacation pay in lieu.

Employees who are paid by the hour receive vacation pay as a percentage of their wages.

"Wages" includes any previously paid vacation pay, but does not include overtime
earnings, general holiday pay, pay in lieu of a notice of termination or an unearned bonus.

In the first four years of employment, minimum vacation pay is four per cent of earned
wages. In the fifth and subsequent years, minimum vacation pay increases to six per cent.

Part-time employees

Part-time employees have the same vacation and vacation-pay entitlements as full-time
employees. The one important distinction is that their vacation or vacation pay will
reflect their reduced hours. For example, part-time employees who only work two days
per week are entitled to four paid vacation days after one year of employment.

Construction workers
Construction workers are not usually given annual vacation time, but are entitled to
vacation pay. All construction employees (full-time and part-time) must be paid vacation
pay equal to six per cent of the employee's wages.

Other workers who are exempt from vacations and vacation pay entitlements:
• employees on a farm or a ranch
• salespersons working mainly away from the employer's premises who solicit
orders for later delivery
• professionals such as real estate brokers, and licensed insurance and securities
salespersons
• extras in a film or video production
• employees covered by other Acts (e.g., academic staff)
• municipal police officers

If you have any other concerns or questions, call the Alberta Employment Standards
Contact Centre toll-free at 1-877-427-3731 (780 427 3731 in Edmonton) or visit
www.employment.alberta.ca/es.

Do you have a work-related question? Send your questions to Working Wise, at
charles.strachey@gov.ab.ca. Charles Strachey is a manager with Alberta Human
Services. This column is provided for general information.


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