Alberta refuses to legislate job protection

Workers in Alberta could lose jobs if they take advantage of federal government's compassionate care leave

Alberta employees who take advantage of the new federal compassionate care leave program to take care of dying family members may not be able to return to their jobs.

That’s because Alberta has no plans of changing employment standards legislation to force employers to bring those staff members back.

“If most employers are going to do it anyway, why are we going to make it mandatory?” Shelby MacLeod, executive assistant to Alberta’s Human Resources Minister Clint Dunford told the Edmonton Journal. “We don’t believe there are heartless employers out there because everybody has somebody they love, and when somebody they love is dying, there’s a compassionate part of everybody.”

Alberta and British Columbia are the only two jurisdictions that either have no legislation that guarantees jobs or have indicated they won’t change employment legislation, according to Gordon McFee, a spokesman for Human Resources and Skills Development, the federal agency running the program.

Opposition parties in Alberta slammed the province for not changing the legislation.

“You have employment standards because you don’t take it for granted that people will be treated fairly in every case,” said New Democrat MLA Brian Mason. “This typifies a lack of compassion in this government for individual workers.”

Joe Volpe, the federal Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development, said the compassionate care program could end up costing $1.5 billion over the next several years — but he said it will be money well spent.

"Given the numbers that we have, we could see that it would be that kind of an expense, but it's an expense that's well worth its while," said Volpe.

Canadian industry estimates that employees with sick or dying family members or spouses cost the economy some $2.4 billion in lost productivity each year, he said.

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