What Leaves Are Protected?

Life is unpredictable. It throws unexpected events, issues and excitement at us all of the time, and there isn’t much we can do to control it. Unfortunately, a lot of these surprises don’t take your work schedule into consideration.

That’s why Canada has created laws around protected work leaves. They can be found in the Canada Labour Code, which covers federally regulated industries, and in each province under their labour laws. There are also Employment Insurance Benefits that cover certain workers.

If you have a union you have even more security for you leaves because of your collective agreement that is protected under the Alberta Labour Relations Code. This is like having workplace insurance on your side. 

If your loved one becomes ill or you go on paternity leave, you shouldn’t lose your job over it. Sadly, many employers ignore these laws and either fire or punish employees who need to take a leave. If you don’t have anyone to represent your rights in the workplace, it can be a huge stress and devastating to your family.

In Alberta, all leaves are guaranteed to any employee who has been employed with the same company for at least 90 days. Here are the different types of protected leaves in Alberta.

Bereavement Leave

This allows an employee to take up to three days of unpaid leave upon a family members death per year. You don’t need to provide a medical certificate by law but the death must be of an immediate or extended family member.

Citizenship Ceremony Leave

This type of leave lets an employee take up to a half-day of unpaid leave to attend their citizenship ceremony. A citizenship ceremony is when a certificate of citizenship is received under the regulations of the Citizenship Act of Canada.

Compassionate Care Leave

In this leave, employees can take up to 27 weeks of leave to take care of a gravely ill family member. In this type of leave, the employee must provide a medical certificate and show that the family member is at significant risk of dying within 26 weeks. This leave can be split into multiple instalments of at least one week each and ends the last day of the work week in which the family member dies.

Critical Illness Leave

This allows employees to take unpaid leave to provide care to a child or family member. The employee can take up to 36 weeks for a critically ill child and 16 weeks for an adult. When ending the leave the employee must provide one week’s written notice of when they intend to return to work. 

Death or Disappearance of a Child Leave

Employees can take leave if their child dies or disappears as a result of a criminal code offence. The child must be under 18 years of age and the employee is not entitled to the leave if they are charged with the crime that led to the death or disappearance of the child. The length of leave is 52 weeks if the child has disappeared and 104 weeks if the child has died.

Domestic Violence Leave

Employees are able to take up to 10 days of unpaid leave due to the effects of violence in their home. This applies if the abuse happens to the employee, the employee’s child or a protected adult living with the employee. The definition of acts of domestic violence can be found here in the Employment Standards Code.

Long-Term Illness and Injury Leave

This allows employees to take up to 16 weeks of leave due to illness, injury or quarantine. The employee must provide a medical certificate that is issued by a nurse practitioner or physician.

Maternity and Parental Leave

One of the most common leaves, this allows employees to take maternity and/or paternal leave after birth or adoption. On maternity leave, birth mothers can take up to 16 weeks of unpaid leave and can start at any time within the 13 weeks leading up to the due date.  Birth and adoptive parents can take up to 62 weeks of unpaid paternal leave. Paternal leave can be taken by both parents and shared between them. 

Personal and Family Responsibility Leave

Employees can take up to five days of leave for health issues or family needs. The leave must be considered necessary for the health of the employee or for the employee to meet family responsibilities. 

When you need to take a leave of absence from work, you don’t need the added stress of worrying about the security of your job when you return. Labour laws are in place to protect you, but that doesn’t mean employers will always follow them. 

We're here to help

Do you have any questions about your rights in the workplace or need someone to talk to about your job stress? Contact one of our free labour counsellors at (403) 259-4608 or

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