Code change protects reservists’ jobs

I heard there are new job protections for Canadian Forces reservists in Alberta.

Dear Working Wise: I heard there are new job protections for Canadian Forces reservists in Alberta.

I’m headed to Afghanistan soon and I’m wondering how the new protections will help me? — Soldier with a Day Job

Dear Soldier: First of all, thank you to you and comrades for serving and protecting our country.

Yes, Alberta reservists now enjoy added job security while serving their country. Alberta’s Employment Standards Code has been amended to establish unpaid job-protected leave for members of the reserves. This applies to certain military activities and operations in Canada and abroad, including annual training.

For those who don’t know, most reservists serve in the Canadian Forces on a part-time basis. About 45 per cent of Canadian reservists maintain either full- or part-time civilian jobs, and about 40 per cent are students. Reservist leave is intended to provide unpaid job protection to reservists while they are serving their country.

The unpaid leave applies to international deployments, along with certain domestic operations such as work during natural disasters.

Amendments to the code also provide reservists with 20 days unpaid leave each calendar year for training.

In the case of a deployment, the reservist must provide their employer with four weeks written notice from the date on which the leave will start and an estimated date they intend to return to work. Reservists are not required to comply with the notice requirement if unable to do so, due to deployment in urgent circumstances. However, when such circumstances arise, the reservist must provide the employer with written notice as soon as is reasonable and practicable in the circumstances.

In most cases, an employer must reinstate the reservist to the same or an alternative position of a comparable nature, without any reduction in earnings or other benefits.

When an employer does not meet their obligations, job-protected leave for reservists is covered by the enforcement provisions of the code, including the possibility of an order for reinstatement or compensation or both.

Reservists are required to give at least four weeks’ written notice if they do not plan to return to work after leave ends.

To be eligible, the reservist must have worked for an employer for at least 26 weeks. This requirement applies to both full-time and part-time employees.

There are no restrictions on how often a reservist can go on a domestic or international deployment, but they cannot take more than 20 days (consecutive or non-consecutive) each calendar year for training. The reservist must provide at least four weeks written notice of the date on which leave will start and the actual date on which they will be back at work.

The employer is entitled to request confirmation that the reservist is taking part in an activity that is eligible for leave, the day on which leave starts, and the estimated or actual length of the leave. The reservist must forward the document to the employer once it is received from the commanding officer.

There is no obligation under the code to provide a paid leave of absence. However, an employment contract or collective agreement may provide the reservist with wages or other benefits while on leave. An employer may not terminate or lay off a reservist once leave begins unless the employer suspends or discontinues the business. If the business is suspended during a reservist’s leave, the employee has hiring priority if the business starts up again within 12 months after the end of the leave.

If you have any more questions, visit www.employment.alberta.ca/es or call Employment Standards toll-free at 1-877-427-3731.

Working Wise is compiled weekly by Charles Strachey, a regional manager with Alberta Employment and Immigration. Work-related questions can be sent to him at charles.strachey@gov.ab.ca. Working Wise is provided for general information only. Help with specific situations is available through Alberta Employment Standards by calling 1-877-427-3731.

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