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Farm and Ranch Workers About to Lose Their Statutory Exemptions

03-Dec-15

By Manav Deol and Hugh McPhail, Q.C.

Bill 6, the Enhanced Protection for Farm and Ranch Workers Act, was recently introduced in the Alberta Legislature. If passed, the Bill would make farms and ranches and their workers subject to:

  • workplace requirements under the Occupational Health and Safety Act;
  • Workers’ Compensation Board insurance coverage;
  • Alberta’s Employment Standards Code so that provisions dealing with hours of work, overtime, holidays, vacations, restrictions on the employment of children, and minimum wage would all apply; and
  • Alberta’s Labour Relations Code so that full unionization rights would be available to farm and ranch employees.

These changes could apply to farmworkers as early as January 1, 2016. However, the Government has recently stated that further consultation with farmers will take place before technical health and safety rules are developed, and before changes are made to Employment Standards and Labour Relations legislation.

The agricultural community has voiced opposition to the Bill and expressed concern over how the new legislation could affect traditional family farm operations. In response, the Government has recently said it intends to introduce amendments which would clarify that WCB coverage and OHS Standards would only be applicable where a farm employs paid employees.

Farm employers will be very interested to see whether the legislation is passed in the fall session and if any further steps are taken by the Government to address ongoing concerns of the agricultural community.

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