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Alberta government expands bereavement and reservist leaves for employees

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The Alberta government is proposing changes to provincial labour laws that will change bereavement leave and reservist leave policies for employees.

Bill 17, otherwise known as the Labour Statutes Amendment Act, will amend the Employment Standards Code to allow for these changes.

The proposed changes will expand access to bereavement leave to employees who experience a miscarriage or stillbirth. Any employee who would have been a parent — including biological parents, adoptive parents and surrogates — will be eligible for bereavement leave.

All other rules for bereavement leave will remain the same.

Read more: 20% of pregnancies end in miscarriage. Why do women still feel guilty?

“It is hard to imagine the grief that parents feel when they’re preparing to welcome a child only to experience the tragedy of a stillbirth or miscarriage,” Premier Jason Kenney said.

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It is unclear, however, if the changes include parents who had to abort their children. Labour and Immigration Minister Kaycee Madu said nothing in the bill prohibits parents who have gone through an abortion from seeking bereavement leave.

“At the end of the day, the bill says employees don’t have to explain their circumstances to their employers in their requests for bereavement leave. They only have to say it is a miscarriage or loss of pregnancy,” Madu said.

Read more: Alberta’s Crown prosecutors consider walking off the job

Bill 17 will also remove the 20-day limit for employees on reservist leave.

According to the government, removing this limit will allow reservists to complete their training duties while maintaining civilian employment without having to use other entitled leave days such as vacation days. All other rules for reservist leave will remain the same.

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According to Kenney and Madu, the amendment will allow reservists to train for longer periods and recognize the sacrifices reservists make to serve the country.

“We cannot have an effective military without our reservists. They have always been a critical part of Canada’s armed forces from the very beginning,” Kenney said.

Read more: Alberta government committed to helping Ukrainians but mum on other refugees

These changes will take effect as soon as the bill receives royal assent.

“We’re pleased to table this bill and look forward to its expeditious passage in legislature,” Kenney said.

“These are important and compassionate measures to recognize grieving parents and Canada’s soldiers, sailors and aviators.”

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In response, the NDP said the United Conservative Party needs to include abortion in the bill.

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“Language must be explicitly clear so it does not leave room for discrimination from employers,” the NDP’s Status of Women critic Janis Irwin said in a statement.
“This legislation should be as inclusive as possible for all types of pregnancy loss and to better serve the diversity of all Albertans.”

Changes to the post-secondary bargaining process

Bill 17 will also propose changes to the Labour Relations Code to allow associations representing academic staff, graduate students and postdoctoral fellows the exclusive right to represent their members in the collective bargaining process indefinitely.

The right was set to expire on July 1 this year.

Academic staff have had this right since 1981, while graduate students and post-doctoral fellows had this right since 2004 and 2017, respectively.

If the bill passes, changes to the post-secondary bargaining system will take effect on July 1 and all other rules for post-secondary bargaining will remain the same.

Read more: Concerns of lasting impacts due to University of Lethbridge strike

“We are maintaining the status quo. Removing this expiry date does not take away their member’s rights to strike,” Madu said.

“Academic staff, graduate students and post-doctoral fellows will be represented by associations that have existing relationships with post-secondary administration and already know how to present their needs well.”

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