AuthorBowal, Peter

How Earnings Must Be Paid


In 1981, when I was a student working for the summer in London, England, every two weeks I would walk over to another building and join a queue to collect my pay packet. In the little cardboard pouch, I found a very narrow strip of paper of numbers that explained how my earnings and deductions were calculated. My employer paid the net salary in bills and coins, all in the packet. There were no direct deposits in those days or cheques to take to the bank, much less payday cheque-cashing shops.

I figured that employers paid wages in cash because that was the most liquid form of money. I also figured there must have been a legal obligation on employers to do so because workers, at that time, could not easily access earnings that were not in cash.

This sort of rule is one example of workers' rights in a universe of "employment standards" under provincial laws (such as the Employment Standards Code in Alberta). I cannot remember the basic cash pouch being a legal requirement in Alberta, although they are permitted. Nevertheless, we have several other rules in effect today around the payment of wages.

The topic of this column is the requirements on Alberta employers when paying earnings to workers. Other provinces and territories in Canada have very similar rules. Workers should review the employment standards legislation in effect where they work to learn the details of how their earnings must be paid.

General Provisions

Employers must set out pay periods for calculating wages, which cannot be longer than one month. Wages, overtime and holiday pay earned must be paid within 10 days after the end of each pay period.

An employer must pay at least the minimum wage--currently $15 per hour ($13 for workers under 18 who are in school). Workers paid by commission or other incentive must also be paid the minimum wage in each pay period.

Employers must pay workers for a minimum of 3 hours of work. Meal periods are not counted in this. There are a few exceptions to the minimum 3 hour work period, including:

* school bus drivers;

* young workers teaching swimming lessons or lifeguarding part-time at municipal recreation facilities;

* workers on a movie set or other "artistic endeavour";

* jobs up to 2 hours on school days.

These employees must be paid minimum wage for at least 2 hours each work period.

When either party terminates the employment with notice, employers must pay the employees' earnings no later than 3...

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