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Compassionate care leave gives families peace of mind

Posted on March 4, 2014 by 40 Mile Commentator

Compassionate care leave gives peace of mind to families; not so much for small business owners

It has been just over a month since Albertans have been allowed to take up to eight weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave from their work in order to care for a gravely ill family member.

Compassionate care leave, which falls under the Employment Standards Code, gives people peace of mind that they will have a job to return to should they be needed to care for a seriously ill member of their family

“No one’s job should be in jeopardy when they take time off work to care for a loved one. Compassionate care leave supports family when they’re at their most vulnerable,” said Thomas Lukaszuk, Alberta minister of jobs, skills, training, and labour when he made the announcement last month.

While the eight weeks of compassionate care leave is unpaid, some people may be eligible for six weeks of employment insurance benefits while they are on compassionate care leave.

“Protecting the jobs of family caregivers ensures Albertans can be there to provide invaluable support to loved ones living with cancer and other serious disease,” said Dan Holinda, executive director for the Canadian Cancer Society, Alberta/NWT division.

Allowing people to care for a loved one in their time of need is the right thing for the province to do, even if they were a little slow out of the starting gate, being the last province in the nation to implement such a deal.

While the provisions for the employee are well-laid out in the Employment Standards Code, it is less clear on any compensation for the employer, other than the employer’s obligations to the employee.

Some employers of  smaller businesses are claiming that finding replacement workers, then training them, only to be laid off when the employee returns to work will bring about hardships for small businesses that only have a handful of employees to begin with.

The employer making this claim may appear to be somewhat insensitive, but has a valid concern. It is much easier to hire a temporary worker to replace an employee who is on maternity leave for one year than it is to find one for two months.

The other side of the coin would argue what plan of action does that employer have in place should one of his few employees have to go on sick leave. Hopefully, the employer would have thought out that scenario well in advance of it ever happening. Call it Plan 2.

Compassionate care leave is a wonderful idea for Albertans who tirelessly care for a loved one. Consider it one of those things like insurance; you are glad and fortunate to have it, but hope you never need it.

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