Bill 203 was introduced to the Alberta Legislature on November
1, 2012. More than 18 months later, Bill 203 passed third reading
and received royal assent on May 27, 2013. With the coming into
force of these amendments, Alberta becomes the final province or
territory in Canada to introduce job-protected compassionate care
leave for its employees.
As is the case in Alberta with maternity, parental, and
reservist leave, an employee absent from work on compassionate care
leave cannot be dismissed or laid off. The employee is also
entitled to resume employment at the conclusion of the
compassionate care leave in the same position and with all of the
same earnings and other benefits the employee enjoyed prior to the
leave starting (or the employer must provide the employee with
comparable alternative work).
Under the new provisions, an employee who has completed at least
52 consecutive weeks of service with an employer is entitled to
unpaid leave for up to 8 weeks to provide care or support to a
seriously ill family member. The employee must be the primary
caregiver of the ill family member. The new amendments define
"family member" as the spouse or common law partner of
the employee, a child of the employee or the spouse or common law
partner of the employee, a parent of the employee or the spouse or
common law partner of the employee, or any other person who is a
member of a class of persons designated by the regulations. At the
time of this posting, there were no classes of persons designated
by regulation. To be a "primary caregiver" the employee
must be an individual who has primary responsibility for providing
care or support to the serious ill family member.
Alberta's compassionate care leave regime takes a somewhat
restrictive approach to eligibility for leave. While some other
provinces (Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland)
require an employee to work a minimum period before being eligible
for compassionate care leave, no other jurisdiction requires an
employee to work as long as Alberta and many provinces and
territories have no such eligibility requirement at all.
Other jurisdictions also take a broader view of eligible
relationships. In British Columbia, for example, employees can take
leave to care for seriously ill or injured aunts, uncles, nieces
and nephews. In Ontario, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, and Prince
Edward Island, employees can take leave to care for sons-in-law or
daughters-in-law. Most jurisdictions also include a "catch
all" provision that permits leave to care for a close relative
or someone that the employee considers to be like a close
To be eligible for leave in Alberta, the employee must also
provide a certificate issued by a physician which states that the
ill family member has a serious medical condition with a
significant risk of death within 26 weeks and that the ill family
member requires the care or support of one or more family members.
Requiring a medical certificate is a common element in all
jurisdictions although the certificate is sometimes not required
unless the employer makes a request.
Typically, in Alberta an employee will need to give their
employer at least 2 weeks' notice of when the compassionate
care leave will commence, but circumstances may necessitate a
shorter notice period. Employees can split their leave into 2
periods of compassionate care leave provided the total time away
from work does not exceed 8 weeks and any single period of leave is
no less than 1 week.
The new amendments to Alberta's Employment Standards
Code are welcome developments that bring Alberta up to speed
with the rest of the country. Employers and employees alike should
familiarize themselves with the unique eligibility requirements in
Alberta so that they can be prepared when the changes take effect
on February 1, 2014.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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