On January 31, 2020 the Farm Freedom and Safety Act came into effect, replacing the Enhanced Protection for Farm and Ranch Workers Act enacted by the previous Alberta government.

Alberta farms and ranches without waged, non-family employees will experience no changes with the enactment of the Farm Freedom and Safety Act. They remain, as in the past, exempt from requirements for workplace insurance, employment standards and Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) regulations.

Under the new Act, farms employing 5 or fewer waged, non-family workers are no longer required to insure their employees. Employers who choose to purchase insurance may do so privately or through the Workers Compensation Board (WCB). Farms with 5 or fewer employees are also exempt from all employment standards (such as minimum wage, vacation pay, provision for unpaid leave, etc.). For more information on employment standards, please go to https://www.alberta.ca/farm-and-ranch-employment-standards.aspx.

Farms and ranches with 6 or more waged, non-family employees are required to have workplace insurance. The difference in the 2020 legislation is that the employer has the option to choose a private insurer or the WCB. Employment standards apply although there are some exemptions, notably regarding hours of work and overtime.

Changes to the OHS Act, as it applies to farming, accompanied the enactment of the Farm Freedom and Safety Act on January 31. Any farm with at least 1 waged non-family employee must follow generally acceptable industry standards and apply general health and safety principles as outlined by OHS legislation: https://www.alberta.ca/farm-and-ranch-ohs.aspx

Basic workers’ rights under the OHS Act are:

  1. the right to refuse dangerous work
  2. the right to know of potential hazards and have access to basic workplace health and safety information
  3. the right to participate in workplace health and safety

Complete information about the Farm Freedom and Safety Act is available from the Government of Alberta. Battle River Power Coop encourages members who have questions about the legislation to use the links in this blog to access additional information.