Compassionate care leave

Eligible employees can take up to 27 weeks of leave to care for gravely-ill family.

Basic rules

  • Employees are eligible for compassionate care leave if they have been employed at least 90 days with the same employer.
  • Eligible employees who provide a medical certificate can take time off work for compassionate care leave without risk of losing their job.
  • Employers must grant compassionate care leave to eligible employees and give them their same, or equivalent, job back after they return to work.
  • Employees on compassionate care leave are considered to be continuously employed, for the purposes of calculating years of service.

Employee eligibility

Employees are eligible for compassionate care leave if:

  • they’ve been employed at least 90 days with the same employer
  • they give care or provide support to a gravely ill family member; the ill family member may live in Alberta or elsewhere
  • their family member is at significant risk of dying within 26 weeks, as established by a medical certificate

Employees with less than 90 days of employment may still be granted leave. However, their employers aren’t required under employment standards legislation to grant them leave.

If more than one employee who is employed by the same employer is entitled to compassionate care leave with respect to the same family member, the employer is not required to grant the leave to more than one employee at a time.

Who’s considered a family member

All of the following are considered family members.

Employee’s family members:

  • Spouse, adult interdependent partner or common-law partner
  • Children (and their partner/spouse)
  • Current or former foster children (and their partner/spouse)
  • Current or former wards
  • Parents, step-parents and/or current or former guardians (and their partner/spouse)
  • Current or former foster parents
  • Siblings, half-siblings, step-siblings (and their partner/spouse)
  • Grandchildren, step-grandchildren (and their partner/spouse)
  • Grandparents, step-grandparents
  • Aunts, uncles, step-aunts, step-uncles (and their partner/spouse)
  • Nieces, nephews (and their partner/spouse)
  • A person the employee isn’t related to but considers to be like a close relative

Family members of employee’s spouse, common-law or adult interdependent partner:

  • Children (and their partner/spouse)
  • Current or former wards
  • Parents, step-parents, foster parents
  • Sibling, half-sibling, step-sibling
  • Grandparents
  • Grandchildren
  • Aunts, uncles
  • Nieces, nephews

Length of leave

An eligible employee can take up to 27 weeks of compassionate care leave. The number of weeks of leave exceeds the Employment Insurance benefit length by one week in recognition of the waiting period. Employees should be aware of this before taking their leave.

The leave can be split into multiple instalments, but each period must be at least one week in length.

Compassionate care leave ends when the earliest of one of the following occurs:

  • the last day of the work week in which the family member dies
  • the 27 weeks of compassionate care leave ends, or
  • the last day of the work week in which the employee ceases to provide care or support to the seriously ill family member

After the leave is completed, and if the family member is still gravely ill and care is required, the employee may request the leave again. However, a new medical certificate must be provided.

Giving notice

Medical certificate

Employees caring for an ill family member must give their employer a medical certificate. A medical certificate may be issued by a nurse practitioner or physician. The certificate must include:

  • a statement that the family member has a serious medical condition and a significant risk of dying within 26 weeks
  • a statement that the family member needs the care or support of one or more family members

If the employee cannot provide the certificate prior to starting the leave, they must provide it as soon as is reasonable.

The 26 weeks is calculated by the earlier of:

  • the day the certificate was issued by the physician, or
  • the day the leave began, if it began before the certificate was issued

Starting leave

Employees must give their employer written notice at least 2 weeks before the start date of their leave.  Notice must include the estimated date of the employee’s return to work.

However, less than 2 weeks’ notice may be given in circumstances where 2 weeks’ notice isn’t possible. In this case, notice must be provided to the employer as soon as is reasonable.

Ending leave

Employees must give their employers at least one week’s written notice to return to work unless the employee and employer agree otherwise.

An employee who chooses not to return to work after the leave ends must give the employer at least 2 weeks’ written notice.

Vacations and vacation pay

Annual vacation earned prior to leave must be taken within 12 months after it was earned. If this time falls while the employee is on leave, the employee must:

  • take the remaining vacation time at the end of the compassionate care leave, or
  • get approval from the employer to take the vacation time at a later date

Termination of employment

Employees can’t be terminated or laid off while on on a job-protected leave unless the employer suspends or discontinues the business. In this case, employees can be terminated or laid off. The employer must reinstate the employee if the business starts up again within 52 weeks after their leave ends.

Employers can’t discriminate against, lay off or terminate an employee, or require them to resign, because of a request for a job-protected leave.

For more information, contact Alberta Human Rights Commission.

An employee who feels they have been improperly terminated can file an employment standards complaint.

Employment insurance (EI) benefits

Employees eligible for compassionate care leave may also be eligible for Employment Insurance benefits for compassionate care.

It is important to be aware that the eligibility requirements for Employment Insurance benefits and eligibility to take a job-protected leave in Alberta may be different.  For more information on Employment Insurance, contact Government of Canada.

How the law applies

Part 2, Division 7.2 of the Employment Standards Code sets out the rules for compassionate care leave. This leave provides employees with unpaid, job-protected leave to care for a family member with a serious medical condition and a significant risk of death.

Part 5.1 of the Employment Standards Regulation expands the definition of a family member for the purposes of compassionate care leave.

Disclaimer: In the event of any discrepancy between this information and Alberta Employment Standards legislation, the legislation is considered correct.