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Compassionate care leave
Family caregiver job protection
Living with cancer is a tremendous burden for any family to endure. Family caregivers must have easy and timely access to supports and services they need when providing care for an ill or dying loved one at home. Job-protected leave for family caregivers will help alleviate the burden placed on families providing care and will help improve the quality of life for Albertans suffering with advanced cancer.
Family caregivers are the backbone of the healthcare system and play an integral role in the healthcare continuum, providing a great deal of unpaid care (estimated at more than $25 billion in 2009).
Family caregivers take on the duty of providing care for an ill or dying loved-one at great cost to themselves personally, financially and in terms of their own health and well-being. In addition to psychological, emotional, spiritual and personal care, family caregivers may provide medical care such as administration of medications and injections, as well as services and care coordination. They carry out all of these responsibilities, under great stress and concern for their loved one, in an environment where they typically have little support from healthcare professionals.
Caring for a loved one in the advanced stages of cancer or other disease can also mean assuming the cost of some prescription and non-prescription medications, nutritional supplements, hygienic products, dressings, adapted devices (such as special beds and other furniture), transportation and parking related to medical appointments, among many other related requirements. In practice, a caregiver’s out-of-pocket burden can be over $1,000 a month, and this does not include the lost income related to absence from work in order to provide care.
A family caregiver loses approximately 23% of their workable hours to provide care and support, which can result in lost wages. In 2009, for new cancer cases, the estimated wage loss was $3.18 billion. Taking on such an important job should be made easier through job-protected leave for family caregivers.
Compassionate Care Leave in Alberta and the Northwest Territories
As of 2017, Albertans have access to 27 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave from work in order to care for a seriously ill family member. People living in the Northwest Territories only have access to eight weeks of job-protected leave. Alberta and NWT employees taking compassionate care leave must be given back their previous job, or the equivalent, when they return, similar to new parents after maternity leave or armed forces reservists when returning from duty.
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 is facing a significant risk of death within 26 weeks. Individuals who qualify can access compassionate care benefits for up to six months. The recipient chooses which weeks in the six month period to take leave, on the condition that they provide care to the family member while they are on leave from work.
Alberta regulations and NWT legislation protect the jobs of people who qualify for the federal Compassionate Care Benefit program. Those who do not access or qualify for the federal benefit can still use the leave but it would be unpaid.
- Employees must have worked at least 90 days for their current employer to be eligible for compassionate care leave.
- Employees must provide their employer with a certificate signed by the attending physician regarding the grave condition of the family member and their need for care.
- The 27 week leave may be split into multiple sections of at least one week in length.
- Twenty-six weeks of Employment Insurance benefits are available to eligible employees for compassionate care.
Employment Standards – Compassionate Care Leave (Government of Alberta)
In the Northwest Territories:
- Employees must provide their employer with a request for compassionate leave advising the employer of the expected duration of the leave; and, if requested by the employer, a medical certificate confirming the medical condition.
- The 8 week leave may be taken in separate periods but each period must be of not less than one week’s duration.
- Two or more employees working for the same employer may take compassionate leave in respect of the same family member as long as the total amount of time does not exceed 8 weeks.
Northwest Territories Employment Standards Act, sections 30, 35, 36 (Government of NWT)
Federal Compassionate Care Benefit Program
Under the national Employment Insurance program, the federal government has instituted the Compassionate Care Benefit program. This program currently provides compassionate care benefits to individuals who need time off work to care for a family member with a significant risk of death within 26 weeks. Individuals who qualify can access compassionate care benefits for up to six months. The recipient chooses which weeks in the six month period to take leave, on the condition that they provide care to the family member while they are on leave from work.
Employement Insurance– Compassionate Care Benefits (Service Canada)
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Printed: March 31, 2020
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