Casual Legal: Long-term illness & injury leave

By Maddison Croden
Reynolds Mirth Richards Farmer LLP
Alberta Municipalities Casual Legal Service Provider

Municipalities may occasionally have employees who require time away from work due to an illness or injury that prevents the employee from performing the typical tasks related to their employment.

During these times, employers must govern themselves by the minimum standards set out in the Employment Standards Code, RSA 2000, c E-9 (the “ESC”) relating to long-term illness and injury leave. Employers may opt to provide their employees with a more comprehensive short- or long-term disability policy, but employers cannot provide less than the minimum standards set out in the ESC.  

Division 7.5 of the ESC indicates that employees are entitled to a maximum of 16 weeks of leave each calendar year due to illness, injury, or quarantine requirements. The 16 weeks of leave may be taken over 16 consecutive weeks, or periodically throughout the calendar year, as is necessary for the employee.

Pursuant to the ESC, long-term illness and injury leave is a job-protected leave. This means an employer cannot terminate an employee who has started long-term illness and injury leave unless the employer suspends or discontinues their business in whole or in part. In addition, when an employee returns to work, the employer must reinstate the employee into the position that the employee occupied when the leave started, or provide the employee with an equivalent type of work at the same pay and with the same benefits that the employee enjoyed at the time their leave began.

To qualify for long-term illness and injury leave under the ESC, the employee must have been employed by the same employer for a minimum of 90 days prior to going on leave. The employee must also provide the employer with a medical certificate, or doctor's note, stating the estimated duration of the leave. This should be done prior to the employee commencing their leave. If the employee is unable to provide the employer with a medical certificate prior to commencing leave, the employee must do so as soon as is reasonable and practical in the circumstances.

During the leave, the employee must keep the employer apprised of any changes in the estimated return to work date set out in the medical certificate. When the employee is well enough to return to work, the employee must provide at least one week’s written notice to the employer of their anticipated return to work date, unless the employee and employer agree otherwise. If the employee does not wish to resume employment at the conclusion of their long-term illness and injury leave, they must provide the employer with a minimum of two weeks’ written notice of the employee’s intention to terminate employment.

If and when the employee is well enough to return to work, it is prudent for an employer to inquire as to whether there are any modifications to the employee’s usual duties which the employee may require. This will enable the employer to ensure that they are accommodating any needs the employee may have resulting from their illness or injury.

To access Alberta Municipalities Casual Legal Helpline, Alberta Municipalities members can call toll-free to 1-800-661-7673 or send an casuallegal [at] (email) to reach the municipal legal experts at Reynolds Mirth Richards and Farmer LLP. For more information on the Casual Legal Service, please call 310-MUNI (6864) or send an riskcontrol [at] (email) to speak to Alberta Municipalities Risk Management staff. Any Regular or Associate member of Alberta Municipalities can access the Casual Legal Service.

DISCLAIMER: This article is meant to provide information only and is not intended to provide legal advice. You should seek the advice of legal counsel to address your specific set of circumstances. Although every effort has been made to provide current and accurate information, changes to the law may cause the information in this article to be outdated.