On February 1, 2014, the Compassionate Care Leave amendments to
the Alberta Employment Standards Code come into effect.
The amendments allow an employee to take unpaid job-protected leave
of up to eight weeks to care for a seriously ill family member. As
a prerequisite of leave, the employee must have completed at least
52 consecutive weeks of employment with the employer. While on
compassionate care leave, the employee is entitled to receive
The meaning of "family member" is broadly defined by
the amendments and includes (but is not limited to):
a spouse or partner of the employee;
the adult interdependent partner of the employee;
a child of the employee or a child of the employee's spouse
a parent of the employee or a spouse or partner of the
a grandparent of the employee or the employee's partner;
a grandchild of the employee or the employee's partner;
an uncle or aunt of the employee or the employee's partner;
a person, whether or not related to the employee, who considers
the employee to be like a close relative or whom the employee
considers to be like a close relative.
To become eligible for this leave, the employee must have
completed at least 52 consecutive weeks of employment with the
employer. In addition, an employee must first obtain a certificate
from a physician stating that the family member has a serious
medical condition with a significant risk of death within 26 weeks.
Except in emergency circumstances, the employee is required to give
the employer a copy of the physician's certificate prior to
Employees are required to provide their employer with two
weeks' notice prior to their leave, unless circumstances
necessitate a shorter period. The leave itself can be split in two
so long as the second period of leave ends no later than 26 weeks
after the first period began.
Employees returning from compassionate care leave are also
required to provide two weeks' written notice of the date that
the employee intends to resume work. An employer may postpone an
employee's return to work for up to four weeks if the employee
fails to comply with the notice requirement.
Significantly, employers are prohibited from laying off or
terminating an employee who has started compassionate care leave.
If the business of the employer is suspended during an
employee's compassionate leave, but subsequently resumed within
52 weeks, the employer is obliged to reinstate the employee to his
or her former position or provide the employee with alternative
work with no loss of seniority or other benefits.
The Compassionate Care Leave amendments add to maternal,
parental, and reservist leave entitlements already available in
Alberta and bring the Employment Standards Code in line
with employment standards legislation elsewhere in Canada. Both
employers and employees should acquaint themselves with their new
rights and obligations created by the amendments.
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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