Compassionate Care and Sick Leave : NS Labour and Advanced Education, Employment Rights

This sheet tells about the leaves of absence that the Labour Standards Code says employers must allow employees to take.

A leave of absence occurs when an employee leaves the job intending to return. Leaves of absence are pregnancy leave, parental leave, court leave, bereavement leave, sick leave, emergency leave, compassionate care leave and citizenship ceremony leave.


Compassionate Care Leave

Compassionate care leave is an unpaid, 28 week leave for employees who need to care for a seriously ill family member who has a high risk of dying within 26 weeks.

To take compassionate care leave, employees must be employed for at least three months with the same employer. Also, they must give their employer as much notice as possible before taking the leave. An employer can ask an employee to provide a medical certificate, from a medical doctor, stating that the employee's family member is seriously ill. The employee can take up to 28 weeks' leave, which must be taken over a 52 week time frame. The leave can be broken up into several periods of at least one week in duration during the 52 week time frame. The 52 week time frame begins on the first day of the week in which the leave began.

Employees who take a compassionate care leave may qualify for a 26 week compassionate care leave benefit under the federal government's Employment Insurance program.


Employee Rights during the Leave

During compassionate care leave, an employer must let the employee keep up any benefit plans to which the employee belongs at the employee's own expense. If this option to keep up the benefits has an expiry date, the employer must give 10 days' written notice before the option to keep up the benefits is not longer in effect. An employee who returns from compassionate care leave must be accepted back into the same position or a comparable one with no loss of seniority or benefits.

Compassionate Care FAQ


Sick Leave

Employees are entitled to receive up to three days unpaid sick leave each year. This leave may be used to care for an ill parent, child, or family member. It can also be used for medical, dental, or other similar appointments.


Discrimination Against a Complainant or Witness

It is against the law to fire, lay off, or discriminate in any way against an employee who has taken or has said that she/he intends to take—or if the employer believes she/he may take—a leave of absence that the Labour Standards Code says she/he should be able to take. If a complaint is filed the Director of Labour Standards will investigate to determine if:
  • the employer has good reason to fire or suspend the employee and can show that the behaviour has not been allowed in the past
  • there is lack of work that the employer could not foresee and avoid
  • the business has stopped operating or the employee's job is no longer needed and the employer is unable to provide other reasonable employment; the employer must show that they acted in good faith

An employee who is denied a leave may make a complaint with the Labour Standards Division.