Job Protection Legislation

The enactment of federal, provincial and territorial Job Protection Legislation has changed the legislative framework in which Reservists can now seek a leave of absence from their civilian employment or educational programs, in order to be deployed on military operations or to take part in military training.

Much of what is in the legislation is not well understood by Reservists, employers, educational institutions or the general public. The information contained in this section will assist both members of the Reserve Force and their employers or educational institutions in understanding the various pieces of Job Protection Legislation for Reservists. This information is intended to provide a general overview of the legislation across Canada, and is not to be read as a legal interpretation of that legislation.

Job Protection Legislation for Reservists: why?

The number of Reservists who are now deploying on either domestic or international operations, and who may therefore require assistance in dealing with their employer or educational institution, has grown in recent years.

To ensure that the interests of Reservists are protected, governments across Canada have passed some form of job protection legislation protecting Reservists after they return from a deployment, either overseas or within Canada, or, in most cases, from an extended period of military training.

Canada is not the only country to have introduced such legislation. It now exists in the United Kingdom, the United States and Australia, and is under consideration in many other countries where Reservists play an important role in national defence. It is all part of officially recognizing the value of Reservists.

Job Protection Legislation for Reservists: what is it?

All employees in Canada are covered either by federal, provincial or territorial Labour Codes. The Canada Labour Code governs employees of federally regulated industries. Federal Public Servants are covered by the Public Service Employment Act and Treasury Board policies. The provinces have their own Labour Code and Employment Standards, and the territories use Federal Legislation where they do not have such legislation.

Since June 2012, the federal government, all ten provincial governments, and all three territories have passed job protection legislation for Reservists. Some jurisdictions also have separate legislation that offers protection for student Reservists, and some have introduced regulations which include more details to support and clarify what the Reservist's entitlements are under the legislation.

No two pieces of Job Protection Legislation across the country are alike. There are differences in the provisions, legal requirements and penalties. These variances may impact Reservists in different ways, even if Reservists from different provinces are serving side-by-side on the same operation or activity. Employers may also experience difficulties in understanding their responsibilities with respect to granting their Reservist employees military leave to serve.

There are, however, some similarities in the legislation. All Reservist leave is without pay, although employers may decide to provide "top up" pay to make up the difference between the military and civilian pay. In addition, all legislation has a minimum qualification period, and most stipulate the frequency and length of the leave of absence.

The requirement to respect Job Protection Legislation does not limit an employer who wants to extend benefits beyond those detailed in the various laws: the legal obligations should therefore be seen, as required, as a starting point.

In general, the legislation does not replace the goodwill that employers and educational institutions regularly demonstrate towards Canada's Reserve Force.

Canada's Reserve Force

Reservists are members of the Canadian Armed Forces who usually serve on a part-time basis in one of the Army Reserve, Naval Reserve, Air Reserve, Health Services Reserve, Special Operations Reserve or the Reserve Legal Services.

Reserve units are located in hundreds of communities across Canada, with an establishment in excess of 26,000 personnel. The majority of Reservists hold civilian jobs and therefore normally work part-time with the Canadian Armed Forces.

Many Reservists are students enrolled in a variety of post-secondary programs. About one-third of the Reserve Force currently works full-time with the Canadian Armed Forces, on international operations such as Afghanistan and Sierra Leone; in domestic operations such as the Vancouver Olympics and Paralympics, forest fires, ice storms and floods; or in schools, units or headquarters.

In addition to serving part-time on weekends and during the week, Reservists may volunteer for operations, for which they transfer from part-time to full-time service. Those who volunteer for full-time military employment sign a statement of understanding for a specific job for a specified period of full-time service. Reservists may volunteer to serve overseas on a specific operation. After volunteering, a Reservist must be selected by the military chain of command, after which he or she must undergo a lengthy administrative process in preparation for deployment that can take some time to complete. Only then will the Reservist be ready for pre-deployment training. All of this means that a Reservist may be absent from his or her place of civilian employment for more than a year.

In the case of a national emergency, a non-voluntary call out of Reservists could occur. [2] An Order-in-Council must in this instance be signed by the Governor General of Canada, on the advice of the Federal Cabinet, in order to place Reserve members on active service. Reservists have not been placed on active service since the Second World War.

I am an employer: what do I need to know about the Legislation?

As an employer, you need to know what Federal, Provincial or Territorial Job Protection Legislation applies to you and your business, and what that legislation obliges you to do for your Reservist employee.

You are privileged to be an employer of a Reservist. You have a valuable employee on your team who brings a wealth of experience as well as a wide variety of leadership and other skills to your workplace.

Reservists acquire specific trade-related skills in addition to leadership skills, time- and personnel-management skills, communication skills, and the ability to think quickly and make decisions under stressful conditions. The military encourages the development of values such as integrity, self-discipline, teamwork and loyalty in all its members, Regular and Reserve.

In order to bring these skills to your workplace, your Reservist employee needs your support in obtaining a leave of absence to deploy on operations or to undergo military training. Many Reservists are willing to use their paid vacation time to undergo military training. At a minimum, however, each Reservist may ask for a couple of extra weeks of vacation without pay every one or two years in order to accommodate longer courses.

There are, of course, occasions when this length of absence is insufficient, and longer time is required for different types of military duties, whether in Canada or on an overseas deployment. In that case, you would be advised well in advance of the Reservist's departure from your employ. The legislation in every jurisdiction stipulates the minimum notice required. Thus, you and your Reservist employee can plan together the length of a leave of absence, what benefits you may be able to extend, and how you will reintegrate your Reservist employee back into your workplace on completion of the training period or deployment.

While the Job Protection Legislation that applies to your business provides some direction as to your legal obligations, you may wish to offer your Reservist employee a more general package of support than the legislation demands. The legislation indicates the length of the leave of absence that shall be granted, as well as how often the Reservist can take this type of leave. You can add other benefits that will help your Reservist employee both while on deployment and upon reintegration into the civilian workplace. You will find the details of the provision of the law that pertains to you by visiting the appropriate Federal, Provincial or Territorial Website.

In addition to granting this type of leave, you can show your support for the Reserve Force by signing a Statement of Support and making military leave a part of your Human Resources policy.

In return for your generous support, you will have a loyal, well-trained employee with a strong work ethic and transferable skills who will be an asset to you and your organization.

Educational institutions: how can we help our Reservists?

Your student Reservist may need your support in obtaining military leave to deploy on operations or to undergo military training. Reservists usually perform their military service one night per week and one weekend per month. Many student Reservists undertake military training all summer long, but others volunteer for operations overseas and at home. Sometimes such extended military service will mean that the student misses one or more consecutive term(s) or, in the case of an emergency, will be absent from classes or exams without sufficient notification.

Student Reservists may, therefore, require the following accommodations or considerations when requesting a leave of absence: rescheduling exams; postponement of assignments; absence from classes; permission to register late; early termination of courses with credit; exemption of fees normally associated with rescheduling of exams or late registrations; re-admittance into the academic program; no loss of credits for courses previously completed; and/or the possibility of continuing their studies via distance learning, where available.

Not all jurisdictions have student-specific legislation, but some parts of the Federal and Provincial legislation may apply to you. In particular, the amendments made to the Canada Student Loans Act, effective April 2008, will be of interest to you.

Reserve training and operational demands may occasionally result in the student Reservist asking a professor for an extension in submitting assignments or other work. Some flexibility will facilitate the student's ability to perform his or her military duties and at the same time, enhance academic performance. It is clearly understood that any accommodation granted must respect and maintain the academic integrity of the educational institution.

Educational institutions are encouraged to develop a standard policy for dealing with student Reservists and/or signing a Statement of Support for the Reserve Force.

The military training and experience Reservist students obtain provides them with a wider range of knowledge, and a more global outlook on life.

I am a Reservist: what are my responsibilities?

Job Protection Legislation protects your job while you are absent from your civilian employment to deploy on military operations or to take part in annual training. However, you have some responsibilities for managing your own career. You do not need to quit your job to go on a deployment, but you do need to make sure that you are well prepared to approach your employer or academic institution when you ask for leave, and that you comply with any requirements that are set out in the relevant legislation in your jurisdiction.

Good communications with your employer or educational institution will go a long way in helping you before and during your deployment, and after your return. In addition, good planning and preparation are the keys to getting a request for military leave of absence approved.

Use common sense when asking for leave: if you are in a new position do not request an extended leave for a military deployment. Make a reasonable request with considerable lead-time and few surprises, and chances are your request will be accepted. Most employers try to be accommodating, so long as they are not caught short.

You are encouraged to approach your Union representative at the same time you contact your employer. In some cases, the Union might already have a military leave clause in your collective agreement.

The legislation that is specific to your employment, no matter whether you are covered by Federal, Provincial, or Territorial legislation, will indicate how much notice you must provide your employer before you will be granted extended military leave. This time can range from four weeks to three months, depending on where you work.

A sample letter that you can send to your employer, informing him or her of your upcoming military service and absence from work, may be found in theTools section. If you are a student, you can use the sample letter addressed to your educational institution.

You should ensure that you discuss your specific situation with your employer and/or your Union representative, so that you understand if you will come back to your same job or an equivalent one, and when and how you will return to work. Simply put, no legislation can replace good communications between you and your employer.

You can find complete versions of Job Protection Legislation on the Federal, Provincial and Territorial government Web sites, listed below. Here you will see what specifically the legislation provides for you.

If you are a student Reservist and you want to volunteer for a deployment, you must check your university's or college's policy on delaying the completion of your program. You may need to seek accommodation for missing prerequisites, writing an exam early (or late), or changing courses.

If you leave mid-year, you must inform your professors what term (or terms) you will miss, and how you plan to complete your program upon your return. Most legislation does not require your institution to change courses or timetables to accommodate you. It is recommended that you talk to your academic advisors early in the process.

Remember, having a supportive employer or educational institution makes it easier for you to serve the Canadian Armed Forces while on a leave of absence from your civilian employment or academic program. So, do not forget to say "Thank You" to your supportive employer or educational institution – they have made sacrifices.

I need help: who can I call?

As the Job Protection Legislation is new, complex and differs from place to place, and job to job, it may be difficult to know what your own responsibilities are in any given circumstance. Help is readily available, no matter whether you are an employer, administrator of an educational institution, or a serving Reservist.

Reservists: you can contact …

As a reservist, your first point of contact is always your Chain of Command and then your Reserve Unit's Military Leave Representative. If you need more help, your next point of contact is the CFLC secretariat. 

Employers and Educational Institutions: you can contact …

As an employer or administrator of an educational institution you should contact the Canadian Forces Liaison Council (CFLC) Secretariat who will answer your questions or put you in touch with your CFLC Provincial or Territorial Chair.

Military Skills Training definition

Military Skills Training comprises a scope of activities that include the development of leadership as well as technical and other skills underlying occupational expertise and progression in rank. Military Skills Training, under the training pillar of the Canadian Armed Forces Professional Development System, is the foundation of the profession of arms and is that which Canada's soldiers, sailors, aviators, and Special Operations Forces operators rely on for success in domestic and international operations. For the purpose of military leave from employer, Military Skills Training is strictly defined to ensure only the most critical skills needed by the CAF are those for which civilian time off is required.

a.     Examples of activities considered within the scope of Military Skill Training are:

  1.  prescribed qualification courses that directly advance an Officer or NCM within their respective career   development periods*
  2.  occupational and specialty qualification courses required for a military specialty function or job a member is employed in, and deemed essential by the member's Commanding Officer*
  3.  the member's individual and unit collective training events deemed essential by their Commanding Officer to maintain readiness, and not to exceed 15 days in a calendar year

b.     Examples of activities deemed outside the scope of Military Training:

  1.  the performance of tasks that are not directly related to a specified CAF qualification requirement
  2.  attending, or participation, in sporting, ceremonial or cultural events

c.     A reservist seeking military leave for the activities considered within the scope of Military Skills Training is to provide to his employer or educator a letter from their Commanding Officer articulatiing the requirement.

* Training requirements must be achieved through the delivery method that provided the least impact to the member employer, such as training on the weekend instead of weekdays and selecting shorter duration courses that grant the same qualification.

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