Partners applaud new bill protecting family caregivers in Alberta

14 May 2013

Edmonton -

The Alberta Caregivers Association and the Canadian Cancer Society, Alberta/NWT Division, are pleased to see the passing of a bill that will provide job-protected leave to family caregivers who take time off work to care for a dying family member.

Bill 203, the Employment Standards (Compassionate Care Leave) Amendment Act, revises Alberta’s Employment Standards Code to include compassionate care leave, providing job security for Albertans who find themselves caring for a terminal family member. Prior to the passing of this bill, Alberta was the only jurisdiction in Canada without compassionate care leave in its employment standards code.

“We are delighted that Alberta now provides job security for family caregivers,” says Anna Man, Alberta Caregivers Association spokesperson. “This bill will help reduce the challenges faced by so many family members in this province who are dealing with the responsibility of caring for a dying loved one.”

Currently, the federal government provides access to benefits through the Employment Insurance program. Compassionate care benefits are available to individuals who need time off work to care for a family member who’s facing a significant risk of death within 26 weeks. Individuals who qualify can access the benefits for up to eight weeks within a 26-week period.

Bill 203 now protects the job of Albertans who qualify for the federal Compassionate Care Benefit program. Albertans who do not access or qualify for the federal benefit can still use the leave but it would be unpaid. Under Bill 203, a family caregiver can use compassionate care leave totalling eight weeks within a six and half month period.

“Needing to care for a loved one who is ill and dying is traumatic enough without the added burden of worrying about keeping your job,” says Angeline Webb, spokesperson for the Canadian Cancer Society, Alberta/NWT Division. “Family caregivers in Alberta will no longer have to choose between their jobs and being there to look after a dying family member.”

Family caregivers are the backbone of Canada’s healthcare system, providing unpaid care estimated at more than $25 billion in 2009. They often become financially, physically and emotionally overwhelmed, and the vast majority of caregivers are employed while, at the same time, providing care. Caregivers lose approximately 23 per cent of their workable hours and suffer a loss of income or a rise in expenses as a direct result of caring for a loved with a serious or terminal illness.

“I am very excited about what Bill 203 will do for Albertans,” says Matt Jeneroux, MLA Edmonton-South West who introduced the Private Members' Bill. “A number of organizations and my own constituents have expressed to me how necessary it is to pass this bill and the foundation we will now have to protect our caregivers.”

Given Canada’s aging population, more and more Albertans will be faced with caring for an ill or dying family member in the home. Family caregivers must have easy and timely access to support programs and the services in order to provide such care.

The Alberta Caregivers Association and the Canadian Cancer Society have been working together to ensure the passage of this bill, a priority for both organizations which work on behalf of Albertans living with chronic, critical or terminal illnesses.

About the Alberta Caregivers Association

The Alberta Caregivers Association (ACGA) is the province's only grassroots organization exclusively dedicated to helping caregivers. We are a group of caregivers for caregivers and offer information, education, support, networking, and advocacy to help caregivers navigate their journey.

About the Canadian Cancer Society

For 75 years, the Canadian Cancer Society has been with Canadians in the fight for life. We have been relentless in our commitment to prevent cancer, fund research and support Canadians touched by cancer. We are working together with Canadians to change cancer forever so fewer Canadians are diagnosed with the disease and more survive. When you want to know more about cancer, visit our website cancer.ca or call our toll-free bilingual Cancer Information Service at 1-888-939-3333.

For more information, please contact:

Paula Trotter

Communications Coordinator

Phone: 403-541-2339