Life throws curveballs – whether you are welcoming a newborn, caring for a sick family member, or dealing with your own illness, Albertan employees have legal protections available to them in times of need. These protections, such as leaves of absence, can help you navigate these challenges without jeopardizing your employment status. Understanding protected leaves of absence empowers you to take necessary time off while ensuring your position remains secure.

This blog post overviews some of the most common types of leave offered and protected under the Alberta Employment Standards Code. It will also outline your rights and responsibilities as an employee.

Statutory Protection Under the Employment Standards Code

The Alberta Employment Standards Code outlines various minimum standards for employment relationships across the province. One crucial aspect is the provision of job-protected leaves of absence. These leaves allow employees to take unpaid leave from work for various personal or family reasons without fear of losing their job.

Employee Eligibility and Notice Requirements

Under the Employment Standards Code, many job-protected leaves require an employee to have been employed with the same employer for at least 90 days before the leave request to be eligible. Employees are also generally required to provide reasonable notice, when possible, to their employer of their intention to take leave. For example, an employee may have several weeks’ notice before attending a planned medical procedure; however, a sudden illness may not allow for as much notice.

While most leaves are unpaid, and employers are not required to pay wages or benefits during such time, support may be available from Employment Insurance in certain cases.

Returning to Work

The key benefit of job-protected leaves is the job security they provide. When you return to work following a leave, you are entitled to return to the same or comparable position with the same employer. This allows you to focus on the reason for your leave without worrying about job protection, significant disruption or dreading a future job search during challenging times. Depending on the employee’s type of leave, there may be specific return-to-work notice requirements.

It is important to note that even if an employee takes a job-protected leave of absence, they are considered to be continuously employed for the purposes of calculating years of service.

Employer Responsibilities

Although such protected leaves are often unpaid, employers are responsible for granting such protected leaves when requested by eligible employees. In other words, employers cannot ask employees to use their vacation time or other paid leave to cover a protected leave.

Common Types of Job-Protected Leaves in Alberta

There are several types of job-protected leave available to eligible employees under the Alberta Employment Standards Code, some of which are outlined in additional detail below:


Employees are entitled to 3 days of bereavement leave per calendar year – not per incident of bereavement. Bereavement leave can be taken after the death of an employee’s immediate or extended family member or a pregnancy loss. While employees must provide their employer with notice as soon as possible, the legislation does not require a medical note or other proof of entitlement.

Compassionate Care

An employee may take up to 27 weeks of compassionate care leave to give care or support a gravely ill family member living in Alberta or elsewhere. A medical certificate will be required to establish that the family member is at significant risk of dying within 26 weeks. The leave itself can be split into multiple installments; however, each period must be at least one week in length. Employees should note that the number of weeks of leave exceeds the Employment Insurance benefit by one week in recognition of the waiting period.

In cases where more than one employee is entitled to compassionate care leave with respect to the same family member, the employer is not required to grant leave to more than one employee at a time.

If the family member is still gravely ill after the leave is completed, the employee may request leave again with supporting evidence provided in a new medical certificate.

Critical Illness

An employee may be eligible for critical illness leave to care for a critically ill family member. If the ill family member is a child, the employee may take up to 36 weeks of leave. If the ill family member is an adult, the employee may take up to 16 weeks of leave. The number of weeks of critical illness leave exceeds the Employment Insurance benefit by one week in recognition of the waiting period. If the family member is still gravely ill after the leave is completed, the employee may request leave again with supporting evidence provided in a new medical certificate.

Domestic Violence

Employees may take leave up to 10 days due to the effects of family violence in the home affecting them, a dependent child, or a protected adult living with the employee. In domestic violence cases, an employee may be granted leave with less than 90 days of employment; however, their employer is not required to grant such leave under the Employment Standards Code.

Long-Term Illness and Injury

Employees may take up to 16 weeks of leave due to injury, illness, or quarantine. The employee must provide their employer with a medical certificate issued by a physician or nurse practitioner stating the estimated duration of the leave and tell their employer of any change to the estimated date of their return to work.

Maternity and Parental Leave

Birth mothers can take up to 16 consecutive weeks of maternity leave, starting any time within the 13 weeks leading up to their estimated due date and no later than the date of the child’s birth. However, an employer can request that an employee commence their maternity leave earlier if pregnancy interferes with the employee’s job performance in the 12 weeks before their due date. Employers can also require employees to submit a medical certificate to confirm their pregnancy and estimated delivery date.

Birth mothers must take at least 6 weeks of leave after giving birth for health reasons unless the employer agrees to allow the employee to return early to duties and the employee provides a medical certificate stating their return will not endanger their health.

Birth parents and adoptive parents can take up to 62 weeks of parental leave any time after the birth or adoption of a child. However, such leave must be completed within 78 weeks of the baby’s birth or placed with the parents.

Contact Getz Collins and Associates in Calgary and Strathmore for Advice on Leaves of Absence

At Getz Collins and Associates, our team of experienced employment lawyers understands the intricacies of Alberta employment law regarding leaves of absence. We regularly help employees understand their rights and responsibilities prior to, during, and after taking a leave of absence. We also advocate for our client’s rights if a dispute with their employer arises.

From our offices in Calgary and Strathmore, we are committed to providing superior client services to employees across Alberta. To schedule a confidential consultation with one of our employment law team members, contact us online or by phone at (587) 391-5600.