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Holiday shopping means more hours for workers

Rules for worker overtime and rest could come into play during busy retail season

By: Viola Pruss

  |  Posted: Saturday, Dec 07, 2013 06:00 am

BUSY STORE – Seasons Gift Shop owner Heather Wolsey helps a Christmas shopper. The store recently hired two more employees to help out during the busy holiday shopping season.
BUSY STORE – Seasons Gift Shop owner Heather Wolsey helps a Christmas shopper. The store recently hired two more employees to help out during the busy holiday shopping season.
APRIL BARTLETT/St. Albert Gazette

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Different Approaches

Businesses in St. Albert have found their own ways of coping with the added hours during the Christmas season.
Seasons Gift Shop on McKenney Avenue has already extended its hours, opening every Sunday from early November until Christmas Day, said store owner Heather Wolsey.
The local shop makes about 40 per cent of its annual sales during the Christmas season, she added. That’s why she increased the work hours of her part-time staff to full time during November and December, and also hired two more employees to help with the sales, she said.
“We run off our feet. We hire extra staff but we also give our staff time off during the Christmas week, keeping it fair,” she said.
Meanwhile, the Bookstore on Perron plays it by ear when it comes to longer opening hours, said store owner Angela Chatwin.
Usually, she said, the store closes by 5 p.m. but if customers call and ask if they can come in late, Chatwin stays to help them. She works the extra hours herself rather than hiring more staff or giving part-timers more hours.

As the countdown to Christmas moves toward the single digits, local store owners are keeping their doors open longer on weekends and evenings.

This allows shoppers more time to select that perfect gift but also brings along extended work hours for many employees, who often move from part-time to full-time employment in December, or work overtime to keep up with extended store hours.

Based on Alberta law, the maximum time most store employees can work is 12 hours per day, with overtime payments added after eight hours, said Jay Fisher, spokesperson for Alberta Safe, Fair and Healthy Workplaces.

Employers must also give their staff at least one day of rest for each week of work, he said.

“That’s the government code and there are other codes for some other industries, for example the road building industry,” he said. “They are allowed to work longer days.”

Fines for no pay

Overtime pay does not apply to managers, supervisors or those employed in a confidential capacity, based on Alberta’s employment standards.

For regular employees, overtime pays 1.5 times the employee’s regular wage. An employee who doesn’t get paid on time can submit a complaint to the government, said Fisher.

Based on statistics from the past two years, his department received the most complaints about missing pay in January 2011 (with 807 complaints). In 2012, the leading month for complaints was June.

“I wouldn’t feel confident saying we get more complaints in the holidays than any other time,” he said.

Employees have up to six months to submit a complaint should they be missing any pay, he added. He stresses though that they should talk to their boss first before contacting his department.

“If they can’t get it sorted out then there is a complaint process that they are going through and the government will investigate and call the employer,” he said.

Should the government find that the employee is owed money, the employer will be asked to pay him back. If the employee has still not been paid, an administrative penalty is added on top of the missing amount, Fisher said.

This “order fee” is either 10 per cent of the money owing, or $100, whichever is greater.

“So if an investigation finds that someone is owed $5,000, the employer is ordered to pay the $5,000 plus an order fee of $500,” said Fisher. “If the amount owed is $800, the employer is ordered to pay the $800 plus a $100 order fee.”

More information regarding overtime pay and work hour regulations can be found at humanservices.alberta.ca


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