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CASUAL LEGAL: Saving Employers Time and Money – Simplified Employment Standards Variance Applications

April 7, 2021

Saving Employers Time and Money – Simplified Employment Standards Variance Applications


By Andrew Skeith

Reynolds Mirth Richards Farmer LLP

AMSC Casual Legal Service Provider


As employers, municipalities are unique in that they have employees in a wide variety of positions and roles, from fire fighters to administrative staff. The relatively rigid structure of the Employment Standards Code requirements often do not lend themselves well to the realities of some of these positions.

To deal with such irregularities, section 74 of the Code allows employers to apply to the Director of Employment Standards for a variance from certain provisions of the Code or regulations, while section 74.1 allows employers to apply to the Minister for other types of variances.

The Director may grant the following types of variances:

  • Extending the maximum hours of work;
  • Extending the maximum period of consecutive work days;
  • Extending an averaging period;
  • Reducing the minimum hours of pay required for time worked;

In the past, applications for variances were relatively rare, as the Director and Minister were required to consider certain requirements that were set out in the regulations prior to granting the request. These considerations included:

  • The employer’s historical compliance with the Code;
  • The reason for the request;
  • Employee support for the request;
  • The potential effect of the variance on the safety, health, or welfare of the public or affected employees.

Bill 32, the Restoring Balance in Alberta’s Workplaces Act, 2020, removed the requirement for the Director and Minister to consider those requirements, with the intent of simplifying and streamlining the process of requesting variances from the Code.

Requesting a variance is now a simple process available through an online government website portal.

To access AMSC’s Casual Legal Helpline, AUMA members can call toll-free to 1-800-661-7673 or email and reach the municipal legal experts at Reynolds Mirth Richards and Farmer LLP. For more information on the Casual Legal Service, please contact, or call 310-AUMA (2862) to speak to AUMA’s Risk Management staff. Any Regular or Associate member of the AUMA can access the Casual Legal Service.

DISCLAIMER: This article is meant to provide information only and is not intended to provide legal advice. You should seek the advice of legal counsel to address your specific set of circumstances. Although every effort has been made to provide current and accurate information, changes to the law may cause the information in this article to be outdated.