Labour Minister Christina Gray tabled Bill 17, The Fair and Family Friendly Workplaces Act, in the Alberta Legislature on May 24, 2017. The Bill amends the Employment Standards Code (ESC) and the Alberta Labour Relations Code, providing important improvements toward gender equality in the workplace. The Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF) says the Bill does not go far enough.
Bill 17 does not bring certain sections in the current ESC into compliance with human rights guarantees. Further, Bill 17 does not address certain equality gaps in the ESC. LEAF recently made recommendations to the Alberta Workplace Legislation Review for gender equality improvements in the ESC.
LEAF applauds Bill 17’s inclusion of additional job-protected leaves, including leaves for circumstances involving family responsibilities and domestic violence. LEAF also supports the addition of sick leave, the extension of maternity leave to 16 weeks, and leave in circumstances of termination of pregnancy.
However, LEAF notes the following problems in Bill 17:
- While the eligibility thresholds for entitlement to various leaves has been shortened, LEAF recommended that eligibility thresholds be removed entirely so as not to exclude the most vulnerable people from job protection. Similarly, there should be no eligibility thresholds for the new job-protected leaves being proposed.
- Bill 17 does not address the ESC’s failure to recognize an employer’s duty to accommodate a pregnant employee who may not be able to fulfill the duties of her position.
- Bill 17 does not address the ESC’s failure to provide for continued accrual of seniority, service, or benefits while the employee is on a family-related leave. This results in women losing economic and job status because of their role in childbearing and other family responsibilities.
- LEAF has recommended that the ESC be amended to provide employees with the right to request flexible work arrangements. Women are disproportionately impacted by workplace scheduling practices that do not permit them to meet family care responsibilities. This is not addressed in Bill 17.
LEAF supports the additional job-protected leaves proposed in Bill 17 and is hopeful that during consideration of Bill 17, the Legislative Assembly will consider further gender equality improvements to the ESC.
For further information:
Danielle Paradis, Chair, LEAF Edmonton, [email protected]