Minimum wage set to go up on September 1

I’m wondering if I’m getting a raise this year? I heard the general minimum wage is going up, but are we liquor servers getting a raise? — Wondering Waitress

Dear Working Wise: I’m wondering if I’m getting a raise this year? I heard the general minimum wage is going up, but are we liquor servers getting a raise? — Wondering Waitress

Dear Wondering: Yes, the minimum wage for alcohol servers is rising from $9.05 to $9.20 per hour, effective Sept. 1.

Alberta’s general minimum wage will also rise 25 cents, from $9.95 to $10.20 per hour.

From now on, both minimum wage rates will increase and a $1 differential between the two will be maintained. The separate minimum wage rate for alcohol servers recognizes that these employees earn tips.

Minimum wage increases take effect on Sept. 1 of each year and are based on increases in average weekly earnings and the consumer price index in Alberta. In the past year, average weekly earnings rose 3.3 per cent in Alberta, while the consumer price index rose 1.4 per cent.

The average of these two figures (2.3 per cent) was rounded up to 25 cents per hour to make it easier for employers to calculate.

Setting an annual date and indexing the minimum wage helps make the increases more predictable for both employers and employees.

It’s important to remember that these are minimum wage rates; many employers choose to pay their employees more to attract and retain good people.

In fact, only 1.5 per cent of Alberta employees make minimum wage right now — the least in the country. And, more than half of minimum-wage earners are under 25, and many work in the accommodation and food-services industries.

Minimum wage is meant to give students and others new to the workforce a foothold in the world of work. It is about getting job experience, work skills, extra income and savings for further education and training.

Minimum wage is the minimum amount employers must pay workers in Alberta, but there are a few exceptions, including:

l farm or ranch workers;

l securities salespersons;

l real estate brokers;

l insurance salespeople;

l students in approved work-experience programs or training courses;

l counsellors/instructors at non-profit camps; and

l extras in film or video production.

Alberta’s Employment Standards also includes a minimum weekly wage for some salespersons and professionals (this will rise to $406) and a minimum monthly minimum wage for domestic employees (this will rise to $1,937).

After personal exemptions and taxes are considered, Alberta’s new general minimum wage of $10.20 per hour will be the second highest in Canada.

For more information on Alberta’s minimum wage rates and exemptions, visit http://work.alberta.ca/es.

Anyone interested in increasing their earning power can visit their nearest Alberta Works Centre and talk to a career and employment consultant about upgrading their skills and finding a better-paying career.

To find an Alberta Works Centre near you, click http://humanservices.alberta.ca/offices.

Working Wise is compiled by Charles Strachey, a manager with Alberta Human Services, for general information. He can be contacted at charles.strachey@gov.ab.ca.

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