Written by Catherine A. Crang
The employment standards legislation in Alberta changed January 1st, 2018. As the first big update to employment standards legislation in Alberta in almost 30 years, the 2018 Code created a number of new forms of employee leave, in addition to making changes to existing forms of employee leave. By now, many employers and employees are aware of the changes, but often they are not aware of the extent of those changes, or the obligations and entitlements relating to them.
One change in the 2018 Code is that employees are now eligible for unpaid, job-protected leave after 90 days of employment (shortened from 52 weeks in the old Code) with the same employer. In an unpaid, job-protected leave, employers must give employees their same, or equivalent, jobs back after they return to work from the leave.
The 2018 Code also made significant changes to some existing forms of leave. These include:
- Compassionate care leave: available to employees who provide a medical certificate to take unpaid time off work to give care or provide support to a gravely ill family member (the ill family member may live in Alberta or elsewhere), who is at risk of dying within 26 weeks, as established by a medical certificate.
- The definition of “family member” of the employee for compassionate care leave was expanded in the 2018 Code to include a number of different types of family members, as well as a person the employee is not related to but considers to be like a close relative.
- Unpaid job protection for compassionate care leave was extended to 27 weeks (from 8 weeks in the old Code).
- Maternity/parental leave: The length of unpaid maternity leave was extended to 16 weeks for pregnant employees. The maximum length of unpaid parental leave is now 62 weeks. These leaves can be combined so, for example, a birth mother could take up to 78 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave.
- Unpaid parental leave is available to both birth and adoptive parents, including: the birth mother (immediately following maternity leave), the other parent, adoptive parents, or both parents, shared between them.
The 2018 Code also created several new forms of unpaid, job-protected leave. These include:
- Personal and Family Responsibility Leave. Provides up to five days of job protection per year for personal sickness or short-term care of a family member. This includes personal emergencies and caregiving responsibilities relating to the education of a child.
- Long-Term Illness and Injury Leave. Provides up to 16 weeks of job protection per year for long-term personal sickness or injury. A medical certificate and reasonable notice are required.
- Bereavement Leave. Provides up to three days of job protection per year for bereavement of an immediate or extended family member.
- Domestic Violence Leave. Provides up to 10 days of job protection per year for employees addressing a situation of domestic violence.
- Citizenship Ceremony. Provides up to a half-day of job protection for employees attending a citizenship ceremony.
- Critical Illness of a Child. Provides up to 36 weeks of job protection for “parents” of critically ill children.
- Critical Illness of an Adult Family Member. Provides up to 16 weeks of job protection for employees who take time off to care for critically ill adult family member.
- Death or disappearance of a Child. Provides up to 52 weeks of job protection for employees whose child disappeared as a result of a crime. It also provides up to 104 weeks if a child died as a result of a crime.
The 2018 Code applies to the majority of employers and employees in Alberta, and sets out minimum standards that apply to the employee-employer relationship in the province.
Contact any member of our Employment, Labour and Human Rights team with any questions you may have about the 2018 Code, or any other personal or business employment-related issues.
This update is intended for general information only on the subject matter and is not to be taken as legal advice.
Employment Standards Code, RSA 2000, c E-9