Critical illness leave

Eligible employees can take unpaid, job-protected leave to provide care and support to a child or family member.

The legislation on this page comes into effect on January 1, 2018

For information on Employment Standards legislation that is in force until December 31, 2017, go to http://work.alberta.ca/employment-standards.html

Basic rules

  • Employees are eligible for critical illness leave if they have been employed at least 90 days with the same employer.
  • Eligible employees can take time off work without pay without risk of losing their job
  • Employers must grant critical illness leave to eligible employees and give them their same, or equivalent, job back when the employee returns to work.
  • Employers aren’t required to pay wages or benefits during this leave, unless stated in an employment contract or collective agreement.
  • Employees who take a leave due to the critical illness of a family member are considered to be continuously employed for the purposes of calculating years of service.

Employee eligibility

Employees are eligible for this leave if they have been employed at least 90 days with the same employer and are a family member of a critically ill child or adult.

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

If more than one family member of the same critically ill child or adult is employed by the same employer, the employer is not required to grant this leave for more than one of the employees at the same 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

Critically ill child

Critical illness leave for a child allows an employee that’s a parent or family member to provide care or support to a child under the age of 18.

More than one critically ill child

If more than one child of the eligible employee is critically ill as a result of the same event, the period the employee may take critical illness leave:

  • begins the earlier of:
    • the start date of when the child requires care or support
    • the day the leave began if it started before a medical certificate was issued
  • ends the earliest of:
    • the last day of the work week the last of the critically ill children dies
    • the end of the 36-week period following the date the leave began
    • the end date listed on the medical certificate of when the child requires care or support
    • the last day of the work week the employee ceases to provide care or support to the last of the critically ill child

Length of leave

An eligible employee can take up to 36 weeks for the critical illness of a child. 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.

Critical illness leave may be taken in more than one period, but each period has to be at least one week long.

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

The leave ends on the earliest of the following occurrences:

  • the last day of the work week in which the child named in the medical certificate dies
  • 36 weeks after from the day the leave started for a critically ill child
  • the expiry of the period identified in the medical certificate
  • the last day of the work week in which the employee ceases to provide care or support to the critically ill child

Critically ill adult

Critical illness leave for a child allows an employee that’s a parent or family member to provide care or support to an adult family member.

Critically ill adult and child

If an adult and child become critically ill from the same event, the period the employee may take critical illness leave:

  • begins the earlier of:
    • the start date of when the adult requires care or support
    • the day the leave began if it started before a medical certificate was issued
  • ends the earliest of:
    • the last day of the work week in which the last critically ill adult or child dies
    • the end of the 36-week period following the date the leave began
    • the end date listed on the medical certificate of when the adult and child require care or support
    • the last day of the work week the employee ceases to provide care or support to the last of the critically ill adult or child

Length of leave

An eligible employee can take up to 16 weeks for the critical illness of an adult. 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.

Critical illness leave may be taken in more than one period, but each period has to be at least one week long.

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

The leave ends on the earliest of the following occurrences:

  • the last day of the work week in which the adult named in the medical certificate dies
  • 16 weeks after from the day the leave started for a critically ill adult
  • the expiry of the period identified in the medical certificate
  • the last day of the work week in which the employee ceases to provide care or support to the critically ill adult

Giving notice

Medical certificate

Employees caring for a critically ill child or adult must give their employer a medical certificate, which can be issued by a nurse practitioner or physician. The certificate must include:

  • that the child or adult is critically ill and requires the care or support of one or more family members,
  • the start date of the period when care or support is needed,
  • the end date of the period during which the child requires care or support, and
  • if the leave started before the certificate was issued, the date the leave began.

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

Starting leave

The employee who wishes to take this leave must give at least 2 weeks’ written notice to their employer. If it not possible to give 2 weeks’ notice, then the employee must give written notice as soon as it is reasonable to do so. This notice needs to include the estimated date of the employee’s return to work. The employee must also inform his or her employer of any change in the estimated date of returning to work.

Ending leave

The employee must provide at least one week’s written notice of the date they intend to return to work unless the employee and employer agree otherwise.

An employee who will not be returning to work after their leave ends must give the employer at least 2 weeks’ written notice of their intention to terminate their employment.

Employers are not required to reinstate employees who fail to give notice or report to work the day after their leave ends, unless the failure is due to unforeseeable or unpreventable circumstances..

Vacation days and 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 their 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 critical illness of leave unless:

  • the employer suspends or discontinues the business; in this case, the employer must reinstate the employee if the business starts up again within 52 weeks after their leave ends, or
  • the reason for the termination is unrelated to the employee requesting or taking the leave

An employee who feels they have been improperly terminated can file an Employment Standards Complaint.

Employment Insurance (EI) Benefits

Employees may be eligible for critically ill or injured child and critically ill or injured adult benefits under the federal EI program.

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 7.4 of the Employment Standards Code (Code) sets out the rules for critical illness of child leave. The legislation entitles eligible employees to a period of leave without pay, at the end of which they must be reinstated in their same, or an equivalent, job.

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

Contact Employment Standards

780‑427‑3731 (Edmonton and surrounding areas)

For toll-free calling, dial 1‑877‑427‑3731

From a cell phone, call #310 on Telus and Bell or *310 on Rogers.

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TTY/TDD for the deaf or hard of hearing

780‑427‑9999 (Edmonton and surrounding areas)

For toll-free calling, dial 1‑800‑232‑7215