Alberta Employment Standards Code & Regulation...For Camps

Tammy Milliken, Education Program Consultant from Alberta Employment Standards Education joined us at the Alberta Camping Association’s Annual Conference to lead a discussion on the Employment Standards Code & Regulation and how they apply to summer camps.

Camp directors and administrators have always had questions regarding exceptions for paying minimum wage, tracking regular hours, overtime hours and defining the difference between employees and volunteers.

Through an open question and answer period Tammy was able to provide guidance, ensuring camps are following the standards and regulations of our provincial government.

From What Employment Standards are CAMPS Exempt?

The keeping of employment records for regular and overtime hours of work does not apply to an employee who is:
xiii)  A counsellor or instructor at an educational or recreational camp that is operated on a charitable or not-for-profit basis.
     A)     For children or handicapped individuals, or
     B)      For religious purposes.
This means that camps do not have to pay their counsellors or instructors overtime or have to keep records of hours worked for the employee. It is highly recommended that camps keep records of all employment hours to be prepared in the chance of a claim.
It is also important to remember that this applies to counsellors and instructors only, and not to other camp employees like kitchen and maintenance staff.
(Section 14(1)(a) and Part 2, Divisions 3 and 4 of the Employment Standards Code)
The minimum wage that an employer must pay an employee does not apply to an employee who is:
     i.    A counsellor or instructor at an educational or recreational camp that is operated on a charitable or not-for-profit basis.
     ii)      For children or handicapped individuals, or
     iii)     For religious purposes.
Again, camps must apply this exemption to counsellors and instructors only. Other camp employees who might work as cooks, grounds keepers, office administration or other positions must be paid minimum wage and their regular and overtime hours must be recorded.
(Section 7, Part 2, Divisions 8 of the Employment Standards Code)

Employees and Volunteers VS. Employees Who Volunteer

The issue that stirred the most discussion was around defining the difference between an employee and volunteer. One of the definitions from the Alberta Employment Standards defines an employee as someone who takes direction and is controlled by the employer. For example: a paid staff member will have to do a job you ask them to do even if they don’t like it, or their employment might be at risk. A volunteer can opt out of that task.
It was made clear that there is a difference between the two and they should not overlap. It is against the Employment Standards Code to ask your employee to volunteer. You may not ask your paid camp staff to volunteer their time above and beyond your employment agreement. In the specific case of your employees who are not counsellors or instructors you may not ask them to volunteer additional time without paying them.
With camps there is a huge grey area around this issue. Many camp staff would love to give an extra hand on their day off. Kitchen staff would gladly participate in a skit at evening campfire and your maintenance man would investigate a plumbing issue after hours if need be. Camp staff are notorious for going above and beyond the call of duty because they are passionate about their camp!
It was discussed and agreed upon that if a camp employee likes to be around people and play music they should be able to attend a campfire without breaking the Employment Standards Code. In the same way employees should be able to give more of their time at their own free will, without any request or even suggestion of expectation from their employer.   Your staff who are exempt from the codes mentioned above should technically be the ones who are doing the extra jobs.  This extra time would be considered outside the employment agreement between other paid camp positions...or you need to pay those non-counsellor and non-instructor staff overtime.

Learning More from the Alberta Employment Standards

In order to further educate employers (camp or otherwise) Alberta Employment Standards Education is available to come to your location and give a full workshop on the Employment Standards Code & Regulations. 
The Alberta Camping Association would like to facilitate a session from Tammy Milliken at Alberta Employment Standards that is aimed specifically for summer camps and other recreational programs and facilities that run as a charitable organization working with children, persons with disabilities or for religious purposes. If you are interested in attending a Wages at Work Workshop with camps in mind, please email We need at least 10 participants to be able to have this free session.
For more information about the Employment Standards Code & Regulations call their help line at 1-877-427-3731 or visit Alberta HumanServices
Categories: Aca Annual Conference, Camp Resources