Can My Boss Do That? Questions about Working Hours and Vacations
Can my boss refuse to give me breaks?
No. You are entitled to 30 minutes of rest for every 5 hours of work. The break can be taken all at once or broken into two 15-minute breaks. Breaks can be paid or unpaid.
Can my boss require me to work weekends?
Yes. The Employment Standards Code states that an employer must give employees days of rest but does not say which days those have to be. If weekend work is a job requirement, you should consider whether you want the job.
Can my boss refuse to give me a vacation?
No. Your boss must give you either vacation time or vacation pay.
However, your boss can refuse to give you a vacation at a certain time. If you and your employer cannot agree on when you can take your vacation, your employer has to give you at least 2 weeks’ written notice of the start date of your annual vacation. If this happens, you must take your vacation when your employer says so.
If you have worked less than 12 months, your boss does not have to agree to give you a vacation before your first 12 months of work are done.
For more information on vacations and vacation pay, see CPLEA’s FAQs on vacations.
Can my boss make me work a split or double shift?
If your job is covered by Alberta’s Employment Standards Code, you can work for up to 12 consecutive hours in one day. Your boss can only ask you to work for more than 12 hours if:
- an accident occurs;
- urgent work is necessary to a plant or machinery;
- other unforeseeable or unpreventable circumstances occur; or
- or your boss gets authorization from the Director of Employment Standards to increase to 16 hours per day.
There are certain rules that must be followed:
- All the work hours must fall within a 12-hour period (for example, 7am to 7pm).
- You must get at least 8 hours of rest between shifts (a double or split shift is considered one shift).
- If you work overtime while working a split shift, your boss must pay you for the overtime.
Can my boss send me home if there isn’t enough work?
Yes. Your employer can send you home early if there isn’t enough work.
If you worked for less than three hours, your employer must pay you at least minimum wage for three of hours of work (unless an exception applies – see below). A meal break of one hour or less is not part of the 3 consecutive hours of work. For example, if you work from 6pm to 9:30pm and take a one hour dinner break from 7pm to 8pm, your employer has to pay you for 3 hours even though you only worked for 2.5 hours.
If you worked for three hours or more, your employer must pay you for the hours you worked.
In some jobs, if you work less than 2 hours, your employer only has to pay for 2 hours of work. Those jobs are:
- part-time employees in recreational or athletic programs run by a city, town, Métis settlement or a not-for-profit community service organization;
- school bus drivers;
- students 13, 14, or 15 years of age employed when the student is required to attend school.
Can my boss make me work overtime without paying me extra?
Alberta’s Employment Standards Code sets out how overtime is calculated and paid out to employees.
For some jobs, overtime for employees is calculated differently. For other jobs, employees do not get overtime. For more information, see CPLEA’s FAQs on overtime.
If the overtime rules apply to you, overtime hours are the greater of either:
- the total of any hours worked over 8 hours per day each day in the work week;
- the total of any hours worked over 44 hours in the work week.
For example, if you worked ten hours per day for five days, you would have 10 hours of overtime using the first method (2 overtime hours each day) and 6 hours using the second method (50 hours worked less 44 hours in a work week). Your overtime is the greater amount and so would be 10 hours.
Your employer must pay you for overtime hours at 1.5 times your regular wage rate.
Your employer can give you time off in lieu of overtime hours if you have an overtime agreement with your employer. An overtime agreement can be:
- part of a collective agreement, if you are in a union; or
- a written agreement between you and your employer or a group of employees and your employer. If the overtime agreement is between a group of employees, it can apply to individuals whether or not they were employed by the employer at the time the agreement was made.
There are certain minimum provisions that the Code says apply to all overtime agreement, even if the agreement does not specifically include them. These terms include:
- if time off is not provided, the employer must pay the employee overtime pay at 1.5 times the employee’s regular wage;
- time off must be taken within 6 months of the end of the pay period when it was earned. For example, if you are paid at the end of every month, and you banked overtime hours in January, you must take that time off before the end of July;
- the agreement cannot be changed or cancelled without one month’s written notice;
- the employer must provide a copy of the overtime agreement to each employee affected by it.
As of September 1, 2019, your employer only has to give you one hour of time off for every hour of overtime worked.
Last updated: September 2019
All of the materials on this page were funded by the Alberta Human Rights Education and Multiculturalism Fund (HREMF). This project was a result of a research project funded by HREMF in 2013. The research report is available here.