Employment Law

Changes to your employment in Alberta: What you should know

changes to your job in Alberta, changes to your job, Graphic depicting change in direction

Can my employer make changes to my job?

In most cases, an employer in Alberta does not have the right to impose significant changes to the terms of your employment. This includes:

  • Pay reductions
  • Drastically reducing an employee’s hours of work
  • Demoting an employee.

Any change that is considered significant and negative implemented by an employer is not permissible.

Employees who have not consented to changes in their initial employment agreement do not have to accept changes imposed by their employer.

If you are a non-unionized employee in Alberta and your employer has made drastic modifications to your job, remember to act fast! If you wait too long it acts as your acceptance to the changes, and allows for your employer to make other alterations to your employment in the future. Speak to a lawyer at Samfiru Tumarkin LLP today.

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What is a constructive dismissal?

A constructive dismissal in Alberta occurs when an employee has made a decision to resign from their job because a fundamental change to the terms of their employment has occurred, or when an employer creates, or allows for the creation of, a hostile or toxic work environment.

When the terms of your employment are significantly changed, the law allows you to resign from your job and seek full severance pay through a wrongful dismissal claim. How much severance pay you are entitled to depends on various factors, including age, length of service, position, employability, and more.

The following situations could lead to a constructive dismissal in Alberta:

  • Demotion
  • Reduced compensation
  • New work location
  • Change in your shift or work hours
  • Toxic work environment
  • Temporary layoff

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Can my employer make changes to my shift or hours of work?

If your employer asks you to work longer hours than originally indicated, scales back your hours of work, or changes your shifts from early mornings to late evenings, you may have a case for a constructive dismissal.

For most employees, shift changes are not ideal, especially when it comes to personal obligations outside of work, such as childcare. Unless your employment contract states otherwise, an employer cannot change your hours of work significantly.

Example: if you have always worked 9 AM – 3 PM and they now want to change your shift to 12 PM – 6 PM, that would be considered a drastic change, in which you do not have to accept.

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Can my employer reduce my wages?

In Alberta, your employer can’t significantly reduce your pay without your agreement.

They must also provide you with some benefit in return (in legal terms this is referred to as “consideration”) for the change.

If your company significantly reduces your wages without your consent, it’s likely that you have been constructively dismissed.

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Can my employer force me to relocate?

The short answer is no. The location of your job is a fundamental term in your employment.

Non-unionized employees in Alberta don’t have to accept major changes to their job, including a shift to a new work location.

When the terms of your employment are significantly changed, the law allows you to resign from your job and seek full severance pay through a constructive dismissal claim.

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Can my employer change my job description?

No, your employer can’t make unwanted changes to your job description in Alberta.

Often employment contracts in Alberta specify that the duties of an employee’s role can be changed “in the employer’s sole discretion.” While agreeing to this term in an employment contract gives the employer a basis to institute some modifications to your job description, this still doesn’t mean significant changes are permissible in most cases.

Modifications that do not form a material term of the employment relationship are likely justifiable, but if a significant and material change (i.e. taking away management responsibilities) is made unilaterally, it is possible that this amounts to the employer showing it does not intend to be bound by the terms of your employment agreement, and may amount to a constructive dismissal.  This would mean that your employment contract has been terminated by the employer through its actions, and you are entitled to severance.

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Can my employer make changes in my employment agreement without telling me?

If you have a written employment agreement, changes to these terms should be in writing and agreed to by both parties. If your employer tries to modify the terms of a written employment agreement without your awareness or acknowledgement, the changes will not be binding on you.

Further, if an employer wishes to change the terms of your employment during the course of your employment, generally you have to receive something in return for agreeing to the change, which in legal terms is referred to as “consideration” (i.e. a small bonus or increase in compensation).

Beware that employment agreements may allow employers to unilaterally change the terms of employment, eliminating arguments in favour of constructive dismissal. These terms can often be easily negotiated. For example, a contract with a fair severance clause can be worth tens of thousands of dollars more to an employee whose employment was terminated.

Overtime pay in Alberta
Layoffs in Canada
• Severance pay in Alberta

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Can my employer change my employment from full-time to part-time?

No. If you began working for a company full-time in Alberta, and they decide to reduce your hours to part-time, this would be a significant change to the terms of your employment.

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Can my employer add duties to my job without providing compensation?

If the added duties are not significant, it may be permissible for an employer to do so.  However, adding substantial duties to your job will likely constitute a material change, and may amount to a constructive dismissal if the change is not agreed to and supported by a corresponding benefit to you (i.e. consideration = a small bonus or increase in compensation).

LEARN MORE: Can my employer increase my workload in Alberta?

The determination of whether the additional duties are significant or not is obviously subjective. If your employer has done this, it would be in your best interests to speak to an employment lawyer and obtain an assessment of whether you have been constructively dismissed.

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Can my employer cut my hours and give them to someone else?

If your employer significantly cuts your hours and you notice they have given them to another employee, you may have a case for a constructive dismissal.

Similarly if you are demoted because your employer wants to hand your position to a new employee, or they feel you are not suited for the role, this is not permitted under any circumstances.

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What should you do if your employer has made a big change to your job?

If your employer has made a significant change to your employment in Alberta, you should do the following:

  • Raise concerns immediately: Employees who do not speak up after a significant change has been imposed on them, unfortunately, give their employer permission to enact further changes in the future. Employees who wish a change to be temporary should communicate their concerns to their employer and make sure they document in writing, that the change is to be temporary.
  • Do not resign: Employees should not resign from their positions before seeking legal advice from an employment lawyer. Employees can work with an employment lawyer to work toward a plan to leave to their employment.
  • Speak to an employment lawyer: If your employer has implemented a significant change to your employment that impacts it negatively, consult with an experienced employment lawyer at Samfiru Tumarkin LLP today.

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