Local agencies are applauding new employment standards that allow family caregivers to take up to eight weeks off from work to care for a loved one without having to worry about losing their jobs.
Alberta became the final province in Canada to offer compassionate care leave within its Employment Standards Code on Feb. 1.
“Albertans are taking on the duty of caring for loved ones more and more because of our growing populations,” said Angeline Webb, a Canadian Cancer Society, Alberta/N.W.T. Division spokesperson.
“Cancer rates are supposed to increase over the next 20 years so this compassionate care leave could not come at a better time. Caregivers are the backbone of the health-care system and they play integral roles, particularly with patients living with life-threatening illnesses. So we’re happy about that.”
Webb said living with advanced cancer is a tremendous burden for any family and having job protection can alleviate some of the burden and improve the quality of life.
Under the new standards, employees can take up to eight weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave from work, to care for a gravely ill family member. They can return to the same or similar position when they go back to work.
Brenda Watts, Red Deer Hospice Society executive director, said this is a good news from both a family and hospice perspective.
Watts said families are very stressed when they are faced with a hospice situation. She said having job protection will take away one of the stresses that families deal with during a difficult time.
“I think it is important from a hospice perspective to know that when families have a good death experience that it helps with the grief afterwards,” she said. “So for families to be able to spend the time they need, and feel they have been able to without added stress of worrying about their job, can help with the grief journey after the death of a loved one.”
Last December, Edmonton-South West MLA Matt Jeneroux brought the private member’s bill to the floor.
Employees must have worked at least 52 weeks for their employer to be eligible for compassionate care leave.
Six weeks of Employment Insurance benefits are available to some employees for compassionate care.