Written by: Tyler Wentzell
Earlier this year, more than 1,200 soldiers from the Canadian Armed Forces were deployed to support rescue operations during the Calgary floods. Though the majority came from the Regular Forces, Canada’s full-time military, almost a quarter of them were Reservists, members of Canada’s part-time military. These soldiers were volunteers who temporarily left their civilian jobs behind on short notice. By law – if they had worked for the same employer for 6.5 months, as required in Alberta – their jobs had to be waiting for them when they returned to work after completing their service.
Since 2006, all Canadian provinces and territories have amended their respective employment standards statutes to provide job protection for Reservists in the Canadian Armed Forces. These rules vary from province to province and territory to territory, but the underlying principle is the same: when Reservists participate in certain activities, their employer must provide them with a period of leave without pay, while retaining both their seniority and an equivalent job for them to assume upon returning. Some provinces provide job protection for deployment on active duty, including overseas operations, and operations in Canada such as the Calgary floods, while others also provide job protection for routine annual training in Canada. In order to take advantage of this job protection, the Reservist must provide their employer with sufficient written notice of the leave, including an anticipated end date. The Reservist must also provide proof of deployment or training at the employer’s request.
Each province and territory makes different allowances for training and active duty. For example, while each jurisdiction provides job protection to Reservists deploying on active duty, Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador restrict how often a Reservist can participate in these deployments. Some provinces, like Manitoba, provide unlimited time off for training, while other provinces, like Ontario, do not provide any job protection to Reservists for training that is not directly related to preparing for active duty. Click here to see a detailed breakdown of the rules in each province and territory.
Don’t wait for the next crisis to find out what your rights and responsibilities are as an employer. Since Reservists will sometimes have to deploy on extremely short notice, employers should take the time now to determine both employer and employee rights and responsibilities. Employers should know what the requirements are in the provinces in which they operate, and have a plan in place for covering the temporary loss of their Reservist employees.
For more information on how Reservist Leave can affect your business, contact any member of Heenan Blaikie’s Labour and Employment Group.
Tyler Wentzell is a summer student at Heenan Blaikie’s Toronto office. He joined the Canadian Army in 2002 as an Infantry Officer, serving with the Regular Forces until 2011. He continues to serve as a Reservist with the 48th Highlanders of Canada in Toronto.