Domestic workers have rights, too

Dear Working Wise: There has been a lot of talk recently about domestic workers, like live-in caregivers and nannies, being treated unfairly by their employers. What are the rules for domestic workers? — Domestic Bliss

Dear Working Wise: There has been a lot of talk recently about domestic workers, like live-in caregivers and nannies, being treated unfairly by their employers.

What are the rules for domestic workers? — Domestic Bliss

Dear Domestic Bliss: A domestic employee is someone working in their employer’s residence, for the care, comfort and convenience of members of that residence. Traditionally this has meant nannies for young children, but could also include elder care and care for persons with disabilities.

The federal government’s ( Live-in Caregiver program allows a worker from another country to come and work in Canada on a temporary basis.

Employers must have sufficient income to be able to pay the worker and provide acceptable accommodation. They must also show that the job offer is primarily care-giving duties for a child or an elderly or disabled person, and not housecleaning.

Generally, families seeking this type of employee would go to an employment agency.

Just last month the Alberta government repealed a decades-old exemption that allowed employment agencies to charge extra fees to nannies or live-in caregivers to work in private homes. Agencies that connect domestic workers with jobs will also be licensed by the province and subject to rules against misrepresenting working conditions or wages to prospective employees.

The changes take effect Sept. 1.

Regardless of whether the domestic employee comes from Canada or abroad, they are entitled to the same minimum wage, and general (statutory) holidays with pay as any other worker in the province. Casual babysitting is not considered domestic employment.

Domestic employees may live in their employer’s home, or elsewhere, but there are different standards for each class.

For domestic employees who live in their employer’s home:

• the minimum wage is $1,677 per month, regardless of the number of hours worked (pro-rating is permitted where the employee agrees to work a portion of a month, such as mornings only); and

• there are limits to the deductions for room and board that employers may take (the maximum allowable deduction per meal is $2.89 and lodging is $3.82 per night).

For domestic employees who don’t live in their employer’s home, the minimum wage of $8.80 per hour applies for all hours worked.

For example, an employee who works nine hours in a day is entitled to $79.20 ($8.80 x 9 hours). Meal deductions cannot exceed $2.89 per meal.

All domestic employees are also entitled to:

• a statement of earnings and deductions for each pay period;

• a rest period of at least 30 minutes, paid or unpaid, during each shift of five consecutive hours or more;

• at least one day of rest in each week;

• vacations and vacation pay;

• notice of termination of employment; and

• maternity and parental leave.

Domestic employees are exempt from overtime compensation.

Alberta’s Employment Standards Code does not address benefits such as sick leave, dental coverage and bereavement leave. These benefits are negotiated between the employer and employee.

Issues do arise and they are often simply misunderstandings between the employer and employee, but domestic workers should know that they have rights.

Any worker with questions or concerns can call Alberta Employment Standards toll-free at 1-877-427-3731. Complaints about criminal behaviour should be reported to local police.

Working Wise is compiled weekly by Charles Strachey, a regional manager with Alberta Employment and Immigration. Work-related questions can be sent to him at Working Wise is provided for general information only. Help with specific situations is available through Alberta Employment Standards by calling 1-877-427-3731.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Asymptomatic testing will now be available for "priority groups" who are most likely to spread the COVID-19 virus to vulnerable or at-risk populations. File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS
Alberta identifies 1,183 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday

50.5% of all active cases are variants of concern

Whistle Stop Cafe owner Christopher Scott and his sister Melodie pose for a photo at the Mirror restaurant. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Alberta Health Services delivers ‘closure order’ to Mirror restaurant

Alberta Health Services says it has delivered a closure order to a… Continue reading

Flags bearers hold the Canadian flag high during the Flags of Remembrance ceremony in Sylvan Lake in this October file photo. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)
New project to pay tribute to Canadians killed in Afghanistan

Flags of Remembrance scheduled for Sept. 11

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Alberta vaccine rollout expanding to front-line health-care workers

More than 240,000 eligible health-care workers can begin booking vaccine appointments starting… Continue reading

File photo
Security and police block the entrance to GraceLife Church as a fence goes up around it near Edmonton on Wednesday April 7, 2021. The Alberta government has closed down and fenced off a church that has been charged with refusing to follow COVID-19 health rules. Alberta Health Services, in a statement, says GraceLife church will remain closed until it shows it will comply with public-health measures meant to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Hundreds gather to support Alberta church shut down for ignoring COVID-19 orders

SPRUCE GROVE, Alta. — Hundreds of people are gathered outside an Alberta… Continue reading

Members of the Canadian Armed Forces march during the Calgary Stampede parade in Calgary, Friday, July 8, 2016. The Canadian Armed Forces is developing contingency plans to keep COVID-19 from affecting its ability to defend the country and continue its missions overseas amid concerns potential adversaries could try to take advantage of the crisis. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Canadian special forces supported major Iraqi military assault on ISIL last month

OTTAWA — Some Canadian soldiers supported a major military offensive last month… Continue reading

A woman pays her repects at a roadblock in Portapique, N.S. on Wednesday, April 22, 2020. The joint public inquiry in response to the April mass shooting in Nova Scotia has announced a mandate that includes a probe of the RCMP response as well as the role of gender-based violence in the tragedy. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Creating permanent memorial to Nova Scotia mass shooting victims a delicate task

PORTAPIQUE, N.S. — Creating a memorial for those killed in Nova Scotia’s… Continue reading

Conservative leader Erin O'Toole holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, April 6, 2020. Top Tory leaders of past and present will speak with supporters today about what a conservative economic recovery from COVID-19 could look like. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Erin O’Toole says ‘I didn’t hide who I was’ running for Conservative leader

OTTAWA — Erin O’Toole assured Conservative supporters that he never hid who… Continue reading

Calgary Flames' Johnny Gaudreau, second from left, celebrates his goal with teammates, from left to right, Matthew Tkachuk, Noah Hanifin and Rasmus Andersson, of Sweden, during second period NHL hockey action against the Edmonton Oilers, in Calgary, Alta., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Larry MacDougal
Jacob Markstrom earns shutout as Flames blank Oilers 5-0 in Battle of Alberta

CALGARY — It took Sean Monahan breaking out of his goal-scoring slump… Continue reading

B.C. Premier John Horgan responds to questions during a postelection news conference in Vancouver, on Sunday, October 25, 2020. British Columbia's opposition Liberals and Greens acknowledge the COVID-19 pandemic has presented huge challenges for Horgan's government, but they say Monday's throne speech must outline a coherent plan for the province's economic, health, social and environmental future. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Horgan’s NDP to bring in throne speech in B.C., Opposition wants coherent plan

VICTORIA — British Columbia’s opposition parties acknowledge the COVID-19 pandemic has presented… Continue reading

A grizzly bear walks on a treadmill as Dr. Charles Robbins, right, offers treats as rewards at Washington State University's Bear Research, Education, and Conservation Center in this undated handout photo. Grizzly bears seem to favour gently sloping or flat trails like those commonly used by people, which can affect land management practices in wild areas, says an expert who has written a paper on their travel patterns. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Anthony Carnahan *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Grizzly bears prefer walking on gentle slopes at a leisurely pace like humans: study

VANCOUVER — Grizzly bears seem to favour gently sloping or flat trails… Continue reading

FILE - In this July 27, 2020, file photo, nurse Kathe Olmstead prepares a shot that is part of a possible COVID-19 vaccine, developed by the National Institutes of Health and Moderna Inc., in Binghamton, N.Y. Moderna said Monday, Nov. 16, 2020, its COVID-19 shot provides strong protection against the coronavirus that's surging in the U.S. and around the world. (AP Photo/Hans Pennink, File)
The COVID-19 wasteland: searching for clues to the pandemic in the sewers

OTTAWA — When Ottawa Public Health officials are trying to decide whether… Continue reading

Most Read