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Alberta's Dual Employment System

Many employees and employers do not fully appreciate how Alberta's employment law works for non-unionized employees. There are two distinct sources of employment law: the employment standards code and the common law. Only understanding one of these sources can leave employees and employers with half the picture.

Employment Standards Code and Severance

The Supreme Court of Canada recently affirmed that Severance is designed to compensate employees for years of service, and is as set out in the Employment Standards Code. (This discussion was in Matthews v. Ocean Nutrition (you can read our discussion of the case here: ).

Employment Standards amounts are much less than common law amounts. Often employees will find out the employment standards amount and think they fully understand their situation. They do not, as they are not taking into account their common law rights.

The Employment Standards minimums are the following in Alberta:

Employment more than 90 days, but less than 2 years the notice period is 1 week's pay.

Employment of 2 years but less than 4 years the notice period is 2 weeks's pay.

Employment of 4 years but less than 6 years the notice period is 4 week's pay.

Employment of 6 years but less than 8 years, the notice period is 5 week's pay.

Employment of 8 years but less than 10 years, the notice period is 6 week's pay.

Employment of 10 years or more, the notice period is 8 week's pay

Common Law Amounts

The common law is judge made law, and sets out pay in lieu of notice amounts. Common law amounts will apply assuming that no contract ousts the common law ( this is very uncommon), or there is no cause to terminate the employee. Courts over the years have reviewed numerous decisions, initially based on the case of l Bardalv. Globe & Mail Ltd. (1960), 24 D.L.R. (2d) 140 (Ont. H.C.). You can read further discussion of this in our article: . The characteristics of employment, including , tenure, type of job, seniority, duties, and the education level and age of the employee are all relevant. The common law amount is usually much higher than the employment standards amount.

If you would like more information on the difference between employment standards and common law wrongful dismissal amounts, please feel free to contact us.

The information contained in this article is not legal advice. No solicitor client relationship is formed through this article. The reader is encouraged to retain counsel for advice in these matters.

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