Drafting a Military Leave Policy

Military leave policies are the clauses that civilian organizations put in place to govern leave when employee- or student-reservists are absent because of their military commitments. Military leave policies help implement applicable provisions within labour codes, and can be found in human-resources guidelines, collective agreements or other corporate documents.

In general, military leave policies reflect an organization’s commitment to accommodate reservists because of their military duties, and outline the obligations of both the organization and the reservist.

Educational institutions’ policies may include leave provisions and other kinds of special considerations that would help accommodate student-reservists because of their military duties.

Military leave policies are a tangible demonstration of civilian organizations’ commitment to Canada’s defence, security and prosperity.

Why is Military Leave Required?

Reservists are typically part-time sailors, soldiers and air personnel, who have full-time civilian commitments—be they jobs or studies. They train with the Canadian Armed Forces an average of one night a week and one weekend per month, and volunteer for military operations at home and abroad. Usually, military training requirements do not interfere with civilian commitments.

Occasionally, however, reservists do need time off from their civilian employment or studies to participate in military activities, such as:

  • Courses
  • Exercises
  • Operations in Canada or overseas.

Military leave policies outline the circumstances and procedures that enable an employee- or student-reservist to take military leave or receive accommodation. As such, they help minimize employee-reservists’ reliance on vacation time to fulfil military commitments.

What Is Contained in a Military Leave Policy?

Military leave policies should always take into account applicable labour codes and collective agreements.

While no single template will suit the needs of every company, educational institution and organization, military leave policies typically cover topics such as:

  • Minimum employment period before being eligible for military leave
  • Reason for leave (e.g., course, exercise, operation)
  • Notice period required to grant military leave
  • Documentation required to grant military leave
  • Length of the leave
  • Frequency of the leave or restrictions on the number of leave requests
  • Approval authorities
  • Notice of return
  • Benefits during the leave
  • Whether the leave is paid or unpaid
  • Whether top-up pay can bridge any difference between military and civilian salaries during the leave

Your organization’s specific circumstances will dictate what your military leave policy looks like.

Your military leave policy should benefit you as well as your employee- or student-reservists. For example, you are encouraged to treat employee-reservists’ military training activities as part of your company’s professional-development program—even though the training is provided at no cost to you. This is particularly true in the case of management and leadership development, as well as pertinent technical-skills training.

Why Should My Company Have a Military Leave Policy?

When your company adopts a formal military leave policy, it shows that your company:

  • Supports employee-reservists in accordance with applicable labour codes
  • Recognizes the benefits that reservists bring to the civilian workplace
  • Values continued learning and development
  • Sets procedures to manage requests for military leave
  • Supports Canada’s defence, security and prosperity

The Canadian Armed Forces invests thousands of dollars into reservists’ training and development, so they can acquire the foundational and specialized skills needed to succeed in military environments (e.g., trade-specific knowledge, leadership, fiscal management, personnel management, supply-chain management). Reservists also go through a criminal-record check, and receive regular training on topics such as workplace safety, first-aid and ethics. They are loyal, dedicated and motivated.

Such skills and attributes are carried over into their civilian lives, and your company benefits by employing individuals who have strong leadership, teamwork and problem-solving profiles. Through its military leave policy, your company acknowledges that reservists’ military experience and training benefit its operations, and complement civilian professional-development programs. 

Why Should an Educational Institution Have a Military Leave Policy?

When your educational institution adopts a formal military leave policy, or a policy to grant special consideration to students because of their military duties, it shows that your institution:

  • Supports student-reservists in their commitment to the Canadian Armed Forces
  • Supports employee-reservists in accordance with applicable labour codes
  • Recognizes the benefits that reservists bring to the classroom and civilian workplace
  • Values continued learning and development
  • Sets procedures to manage requests for military leave or special consideration
  • Supports Canada’s defence, security and prosperity

Educational institutions have a dual role in supporting reservists: some of your faculty and staff may be members of local Reserve units, and some of your students may well be members of those same units.

Faculty and staff members are likely to be further advanced in their military careers than their student counterparts. They would usually be asking for military leave either of a limited duration to attend military training courses (e.g., one to six weeks), or of a longer duration to contribute to an operational deployment (e.g., as little as two weeks; up to twelve months or more). These types of leave requests would be covered by the military leave policy included in your human-resources strategy.

Students have different needs because they are in earlier stages of their military career. Student-reservists normally train with a Reserve unit one evening a week, and go on a weekend exercise once or twice a month. Their extended training courses are generally scheduled for the summer months, so as to not interfere with their academic timetable. Some training may, however, conflict with academic requirements. When this is the case, they may ask for deferred assignment deadlines or re-scheduled examinations dates, in order to participate in military training activities.

In addition, student-reservists may also volunteer for operational deployments in Canada or abroad. Doing so might mean that they could miss part of a term or semester, or even several terms or semesters. In such circumstances, they might need special consideration regarding their ability to attend class, obtain prerequisite courses or complete courses in a certain sequence. Federal legislation relating to the Canada Student Loans Act permits abatement of loans and grants for the period of the deployment, but that is only part of the support they may need.

Of course, it is understood that no accommodation granted to a student-reservist on the basis of their military service should compromise an educational institution’s standards of academic integrity.

What are Employee- and Student-Reservists’ Obligations?

Military chains-of-command will encourage their unit’s reservists to:

  • Identify themselves to their employers as members of Canada’s Reserve Force (even though reservists are not obligated to do so)
  • Take the initiative to work with employers and educators to balance civilian and military commitments
  • Provide as much as notice as possible when it becomes clear that military commitments may interfere with civilian work or studies

This approach based on openness helps to build understanding and trust, to the benefit of all parties.

All military service in Canada is voluntary. Members of the Reserve Force may volunteer to go on deployment in Canada or abroad. They can only be called up for non-voluntary service in times of national emergency, as defined in the National Defence Act and in the emergency legislation of the Government of Canada. An emergency is defined by the National Defence Act as “an insurrection, riot, invasion, armed conflict or war, real or apprehended.”

As an employer or educator, you can ask your employee- or student-reservist to:

  • Submit a request for a military leave of absence in writing
  • Provide documentation to substantiate their request for the leave (e.g., letter from Commanding Officer)
  • Provide estimated start- and end-dates for a period of military leave (understanding that these can sometimes vary, particularly during operations where requirements may evolve)

Parties’ obligations should be outlined within your military leave policy.

Sample Military Leave Policy for Employers of Reservists General

1. It is the policy of XYZ Corporation to comply fully with federal or provincial legislation governing military leaves of absence for employees of XYZ Corporation who are also members of Canada’s Reserve Force.

1.1. In the case that an applicable law conflicts with the stated Human Resource policy of XYZ Corporation, the applicable law shall take precedence.


2. This policy shall apply to all XYZ Corporation employees—including full-time staff, part-time staff and contracted workers—who:

(a) Are members of Canada’s Reserve Force; and

(b) Have been employed by XYZ Corporation for at least three months.  

Military Leaves of Absence

3. Consistent with federal or provincial legislation, any XYZ Corporation employee-reservist performing military service shall be placed on a military leave of absence for the duration of the period of the military service.

3.1. Periods of military leave of absence shall not count as an absence under the XYZ Corporation Attendance Policy.

Request for Military Leave of Absence

4. It is the responsibility of each XYZ Corporation employee-reservist to notify their first-line supervisor, manager, or worksite Human Resource Department of upcoming military service.

4.1. Notification may be in writing or may be given orally; however, to avoid confusion and potential conflicts, it is recommended that it be given in writing.

4.2. Notification must be provided as far in advance of the upcoming military service as possible.

4.3. Notification must include the expected start- and end-date of the leave.

4.4. Notification must be accompanied by supporting documentation from the Canadian Armed Forces (e.g., letter from Commanding Officer). 

Use of Vacation Days

5. No XYZ Corporation employee- service reservist shall be required to use vacation days for periods of military. However, an employee-reservist may voluntarily elect to use vacation days for periods of military service.

Notice of Return

6. If the date of the XYZ Corporation employee-reservist’s return-to-work changes during the course of the military leave, the employee-reservist is required to provide a notice of their new return-to-work date by notifying their first-line supervisor, manager, or worksite Human Resource Department, as soon as is reasonably possible, and no less than the number of days specified in the federal or provincial legislation in advance of the last day of military service. This notification may be in writing or may be given orally; however, to avoid confusion and potential conflicts, it is recommended that it be given in writing.

6.1. The first-line supervisor, manager, or worksite Human Resource Department will ensure the employee is placed on the work schedule in accordance with XYZ Corporation pay policies, collective agreements, and federal or provincial legislation.

Position Upon Reinstatement

7. The XYZ Corporation will reinstate an employee-reservist to the position they held prior to the period of military service, or to a comparable position if the original position no longer exists.


8. An employee-reservist on a military leave of absence will continue to accrue seniority and benefits based on seniority.

8.1. XYZ Corporation will maintain employee and family medical benefits for which no coverage by the Canadian Armed Forces is available, during an employee-reservist’s military leave.

Pay During Military Leave 

9. XYZ Corporation grants each employee-reservist ## hours of paid military leave per year. While these hours are typically to be used for military skills training, they may be used at the discretion of the employee-reservist for any kind of military service.

9.1. After the ## hours of paid military leave have been used, all other periods of military leave will be unpaid.

Payment of Bonuses and Incentives

10. An XYZ Corporation employee-reservist shall be eligible for XYZ Corporation bonuses and incentives in accordance with company polices related to other paid and unpaid leave.

Protection from Discharge

11. No XYZ Corporation employee-reservist, having returned from a period of military service, shall be discharged from employment with the XYZ Corporation within the first six months after returning to work, except for cause.

Resignation of Employment

12. No XYZ Corporation employee-reservist, upon notification to his or her first-line supervisor, manager, or worksite Human Resource Department of upcoming periods of military service, shall be required to resign from XYZ Corporation.

Prohibited Actions

13. The following actions will not be tolerated by XYZ Corporation:

(a) No XYZ Corporation employee shall discriminate against or discharge a XYZ Corporation employee-reservist because of their affiliation with Canada’s Reserve Force or their military activities;

(b) No XYZ Corporation officer or agent shall hinder or prevent a XYZ Corporation employee-reservist from performing their military service, and

(c) No XYZ Corporation officer or agent shall dissuade a XYZ Corporation employee from enrolling in Canada’s Reserve Force by threat of loss of employment.

Sample Special Consideration Policy for Educators of Reservists

1. A student who is a member of Canada’s Reserve Force may on occasion be required to apply for special consideration (e.g., leave or accommodation) in order to participate in military duties such as:

(a) Military skills training;

(b) Exercises; or

(c) Operations either in Canada or abroad.

2. A student who applies for special consideration because of military duties may be granted such consideration with regard to attendance, availability of study materials, assessment requirements, assignment or examination timelines, and refunds.

Application for Special Consideration 

3. Requests for special consideration are to be submitted by the student on the institution’s prescribed form as soon as is reasonably possible before the start of the military duty, and in compliance with the institution’s Academic Rules.

3.1. The student shall provide documentation from the Canadian Armed Forces substantiating the request (e.g., letter from Commanding Officer).

3.2 All documentation in relation to an application for special consideration should to be submitted to the Registrar’s Office online at WEBLINK, or by mail or hand-delivery at 123 XYZ Street, City, Province, A1B 2C3.

Approval of Special Consideration

4. The institution may approve a request for special consideration by a student if, in its discretion, it determines that:

(a) The student is being, or has been, disadvantaged financially or academically as a result of participation in military activities;

(b) The disadvantage is so substantial as to warrant the granting of special consideration to the student by the institution; and

(c) The request has been submitted in compliance with the institution’s Academic Rules.

4.1. The institution shall have discretion in determining what special considerations are to be granted, and how to implement them. Special considerations include but are not limited to:

(a) A waiver of compulsory attendance requirements;

(b) The provision of learning materials in an alternate format or at a different time;

(c) A waiver or modification of assessment requirements;

(d) An extension of course-work deadlines, or a deferral of assessment timelines; and

(e) Permission for the student to withdraw from courses or programs without academic or financial penalty (e.g., full refund of applicable tuition and fees).

5.1. In the event that the institution approves an application for special consideration under the provisions of this policy, the institution shall provide notice of its decision, along with any other pertinent information, to the student and to the instructors of any courses for which the student has applied for special consideration.

5.2. The institution shall work with faculty and staff to implement any special considerations granted under this policy.

5.3. The granting of special consideration to a student under this policy does not waive the student’s obligation to meet or follow the institution’s Academic Rules.

Rejection of Application for Special Consideration

6. The institution may reject an application for special consideration by a student if, in its discretion, it finds that an application has failed to meet the requirements of this policy, including for reasons such as, but not limited to, the following:

(a) The application fails to demonstrate a need for special consideration;

(b) The application fails to identify the requirements for special consideration;

(c) The student fails to submit the application or any documentation subsequently required in a reasonable amount of time; and

(d) The student is fails to comply with the institution’s Academic Rules during any part of the application process.

6.1. The rejection of an application for special consideration by the institution does not preclude any instructor from providing special consideration within their purview.

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