​​This describes the requirement for employees who participate in development initiatives to fulfil a return service commitment, and what happens when they fail to fulfil this commitment.

Fulfilling a return service commitment

A return service commitment is a contractual agreement between an employee and an employer for the employee to work a specified period of time upon completion of a development initiative or to repay financial assistance. Similar to when the department pays for relocation expenses or attraction bonuses, employees who have received financial assistance for a development initiative may be required to enter into a return service agreement if the deputy head considers the initiative to be a significant investment.

For bargaining unit employees, as per the Collective Agreement, government as the employer must engage with the union as part of the process when discussing options and entering a Return Service Agreement (RSA) as it constitutes a condition of work. Union representatives will be invited to participate in discussions and requested to sign off on finalized RSA.

The following options are available to departments for determining the return service commitment.

Education Leave – The return service formula that generally applies to employees receiving a percentage of salary (educational leave) is the lesser of either:

  • four times the percentage of salary granted as financial assistance times the number of work days of leave granted, or
  • five years


  • 4 x 100% x 60 working days = 240 days = 12  months return service owed
  • 4 x 75% x 240 working days = 720 days = 3 years return service owed

​Other Development Initiatives – The return service commitment for employees who receive financial assistance for a development initiative other than education leave is generally two working days for every $100 of financial assistance granted.

The following definitions are provided to assist departments in determining the return service commitment:

A work day is any day on which employees are normally expected to be at their place of employment. After employees complete a development initiative or while they are between semesters, any work day completed with the Alberta government or an employer approved by the deputy head counts towards the return service commitment.

For the purposes of a development initiative, any authorized absence with pay, such as annual vacation leave, casual and general illness leave, and statutory holidays, counts toward the return service commitment.

Failure to fulfil a return service commitment

Employees who do not fulfil the return service commitment are required to repay any outstanding financial assistance. The deputy head may waive the return service commitment where circumstances beyond the employee's control make it impossible to fulfil the obligation.

When an employee leaves before fulfilling a return service commitment, the outstanding commitment is converted to a debt due to the Government of Alberta.

To calculate the amount owing, the outstanding percentage of the return service commitment is multiplied by the original amount of the financial assistance granted. Interest on this debt will be calculated at a rate set by Treasury Board and will form part of the debt.

The deputy head may approve the fulfillment of a return service commitment with an employer outside the Alberta government. All agencies, boards, and commissions under the Public Service Act are normally approved as appropriate employers for fulfilling a return service commitment.

About this directive

Effective Date: April 1, 2005
Contact: Alberta Public Service Commission:
Leadership and Talent Development; Learning and Development

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