Compassionate care leave | fact sheet

Compassionate care leave | fact sheet

Eligible employees may take up to 8 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave to care for a gravely ill family member with a significant risk of death.

Basic rules

  • eligible employees who provide a physician’s certificate can take time off work for compassionate care leave without risk of losing their job
  • employers must grant compassionate care leave to eligible employees and give them their same, or equivalent, job back after they return to work
  • employees on compassionate care leave are considered to be continuously employed, for the purposes of calculating years of service

Employee eligibility

Employees are eligible for compassionate care leave if:

  • they’ve worked at least 52 consecutive weeks with the same employer as a full-time or part-time employee
  • they’re the person with the primary responsibility to give care or support to a gravely ill family member; the ill family member may live in Alberta or elsewhere
  • their family member is at significant risk of dying within 26 weeks, as established by a physician’s certificate

More details

Show Answer Length of leave

Compassionate care leave:

  • must be between 1 and 8 weeks in length and fit within the 26-week window established by the medical certificate
  • can be split into 2 periods of at least 1 week in length; the second period of leave must be taken before the 26-week window expires

Show Answer Giving notice

Physician’s certificate

Employees must give their employer a certificate from the physician who’s caring for the ill family member. The certificate must include:

  • a statement that the family member has a serious medical condition and a significant risk of dying within 26 weeks
  • a statement that the family member needs the care or support of one or more family members

The 26 weeks is calculated by the earlier of:

  • the day the certificate was issued by the physician, or
  • the day the leave began, if it began before the certificate was issued

Sample medical certificate (PDF, 593 KB)

Starting leave

Employees must give their employer written notice at least 2 weeks before their leave start date. However, less than 2 weeks’ notice may be given in an emergency situation. In this case, the medical certificate must be provided before, or as soon as possible after, the employee starts their leave.

Ending leave

Employees must give their employers at least 2 weeks’ written notice to:

  • return to work, or
  • not return to work after their leave ends

An employee can return to work with less than 2 weeks’ written notice if both the employee and employer agree in writing on a different return date.

Postponing your return to work

The employer may postpone the employee’s return to work for up to 4 weeks if:

  • the employee fails to give the employer 2 weeks’ written notice of the return to work date, or
  • the employee and employer agree in writing to a return date of less than weeks, and the employee fails to comply with the agreement

Other postponement rules:

  • the employer must give their postponement notice in writing
  • the employee isn’t entitled to return to work until the day indicated by the employer in the postponement notice
  • the employee is considered to be on compassionate care leave during the postponement

Show Answer Vacations and termination

Vacation days and pay

Employees don’t earn vacation days or pay while on compassionate care leave.

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 the compassionate care 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 compassionate care 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 12 months after their leave ends.

Employers can’t discriminate, lay off or terminate an employee, or require them to resign, because of compassionate care leave.

For more information, contact the Alberta Human Rights Commission

Show Answer Who’s considered a family member?

All of the following are considered your family members.

Your family members

Family members of your spouse or common-law partner

Spouse, common-law partner, or adult-interdependent partner
Children, their spouse (married or common-law) Children, their spouse (married or partner)
Parent, step-parent, their spouse or partner Parent, step-parent (married or partner)
Sibling, half-sibling, step-sibling, their spouse or partner Sibling, half-sibling or step-sibling
Grandparent or step-grandparent Grandparent
Grandchild or step-grandchild, their spouse or partner Grandchild
Aunt, uncle, step-aunt or uncle, their spouse or partner Aunts, uncles
Niece, nephew, their spouse or partner Niece, nephew
Foster parent (current or former) Foster parents (current or former)
Foster child (current or former), their spouse or partner
Ward (current or former) Ward (current or former)
Guardian (current or former), their spouse or partner
A person to whom the employee is not related but considers to be like a close relative

Show Answer Employment Insurance (EI) benefits

Employees eligible for compassionate care leave may also be eligible for Employment Insurance benefits for compassionate care. For more information, contact Service Canada.

Show Answer Definitions

Adult interdependent partner

An adult who lives with another adult in a relationship of economic and domestic dependence for at least 3 years, or for less time if the adults have a child together as defined in the Adult Interdependent Relationships Act.

Common-law partner

A person who lives with the employee for at least one year in a conjugal relationship.


A spouse, common-law partner or an adult interdependent partner.

Family member

Family members related to the employee or to the employee’s partner.

How the law applies

Part 2, Division 7.2 of the Employment Standards Code (Code) sets out the rules for compassionate care leave. This leave provides employees with unpaid, job-protected leave to care for a family member with a serious medical condition and a significant risk of death.

Part 5.1 of the Employment Standards Regulation expands the definition of a family member for the purposes of compassionate care leave.

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

Modified: 2018-01-02
PID: 15054