Rescinded [2009-04-01] - Leave Without Pay Policy

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Policy objective

To provide an equitable and consistent application of leave without pay.

Policy statement

It is the policy of the government to permit employees to take unpaid absences from work for personal or other reasons while maintaining continuity of their employment.


This policy applies to all departments and other portions of the Public Service listed in Part I of Schedule I of the Public Service Staff Relations Act.

Policy requirements

Leave without pay may only be authorised in accordance with the relevant authority, which includes the collective agreement or the appropriate terms and conditions of employment.

For the following leave without pay situations, departments must adhere to the standards in Appendix A of this policy:

  • illness or injury;
  • employment in the office of a Member of Parliament;
  • Reserve Forces training;
  • to seek nomination as a candidate and to be a candidate in a provincial, territorial, or federal election.

When granting leave without pay, departments must inform employees of:

  • the implications concerning leave, insurance coverage, severance pay and contributions under the Public Service Superannuation Act as well as all voluntary deductions;
  • the importance of exercising caution in their actions while on leave in terms of political partisanship, conflict of interest and criticism of government policy, as such actions may jeopardise either their status as a public servant while on leave or their return to the Public Service upon the termination of the leave; and
  • the implications on continuity of employment following the end of the leave period.

An employee on leave without pay can only be replaced on an indeterminate basis if the period of leave or consecutive periods of the same type of leave exceed one year. Periods of different types of leave cannot be combined for the calculation of the one-year period.

Departments granting extended periods of leave without pay must be prepared to provide suitable employment for the employee returning from leave, if they have filled their position indeterminately during their absence. If this is not possible, the employee will be entitled to a one-year leave of absence priority pursuant to the Public Service Employment Act, Section 30. If there is no position available by the end of the priority period, the employee ceases to be an employee pursuant to the Public Service Employment Act, Section 30(4).

Employees, who are terminated in this way, are not entitled to severance pay. However, if they resign or retire prior to the date on which their employment would be terminated, they would receive severance pay in accordance with the provisions of the relevant collective agreement.


The Human Resources Branch of the Treasury Board Secretariat will monitor the application of this policy by departments through regular reports derived from the regional pay system. In addition, departments will be subject to cyclical audits.

Indicators to be evaluated will include:

  • the incidence of cases where a position is not available for an employee wishing to return to duty after leave without pay expires. (This indicator identifies those situations where departments are not fully satisfying their obligations to re-absorb returning employees); and
  • departmental management of individual cases where leave without pay for illness or injury has exceeded two years and there appears to be little likelihood of the employee returning to work in the foreseeable future.


Relevant Collective Agreements
Relevant Terms and Conditions of Employment policies
Terms and Conditions of Employment Regulations for Employees Classified in the Executive Group
The Public Service Employment Act and Regulations
The Financial Administration Act and Regulations
The National Defence Act and Regulations
Policy on Provision of Information on Benefits
Policies on Insurance and Related Benefits
The Public Service Superannuation Act


Enquiries about this policy should be referred to the responsible officers in departmental headquarters who, in turn, may direct questions regarding policy interpretation to the following:

For represented employees:

Pay Administration Section
Labour Relations Division
Human Resources Branch
Treasury Board Secretariat

For excluded and unrepresented employees:

Executive and Excluded Groups
Human Resources Management Division
Human Resources Branch
Treasury Board Secretariat

For managers classified in the Executive Group:

Executive and Excluded Groups
Human Resources Management Division
Human Resources Branch
Treasury Board Secretariat

Appendix A - Standards For Leave Without Pay Situations

Illness or injury

When employees are unable to work due to illness or injury and have exhausted their sick leave credits or injury on duty leave, managers must consider granting leave without pay.

Where it is clear that the employee will not be able to return to duty within the foreseeable future, managers must consider granting such leave without pay, for a period sufficient to enable the employee to make the necessary personal adjustments and preparations for separation from the Public Service on medical grounds.

Where management is satisfied that there is a good chance the employee will be able to return to duty within a reasonable period of time (the length of which will vary according to the circumstances of the case), leave without pay provides an option to bridge the employment gap. Management must regularly re-examine all such cases to ensure that continuation of leave without pay is warranted by current medical evidence.

Management must resolve such leave without pay situations within two years of the leave's commencement, although they can, in some circumstances, be extended to accommodate exceptional cases.

The period of such leave without pay must be flexible enough to allow managers to accommodate the needs of employees with special recovery problems, including their retraining.

Employees who become disabled and who, as a result of their disability, will no longer be able to carry out the duties of their position, may be entitled to a two-year priority for employees who become disabled pursuant to the Public Service Employment Regulations, Section 36. The priority period would begin on the day on which a competent authority certifies that they are ready to return to work, provided that that day is within two years after they became disabled. This priority entitlement continues even if, as a result of their disability, these individuals cease to be employees.

All such leave without pay will be terminated by the employee's:

  • return to duty;
  • resignation or retirement on medical grounds;
  • lay-off pursuant to Section 29 of the Public Service Employment Act; or
  • termination for reasons other than breaches of discipline or misconduct, pursuant to Section 11(2)(g) of the Financial Administration Act.

Employment in the office of a Member of Parliament

Leave without pay to accept employment as exempt staff of a Member of Parliament should only be granted if the deputy head is satisfied that the individual's subsequent re-employment in the department will not be prejudiced.

An employee on leave without pay for this purpose would be treated in accordance with the previously identified policy requirements.

Reserve Forces training

Departments are encouraged to grant reservists the necessary time for Reserve Forces activities. Such leave should conform to the provisions of the Reserve Forces Training Leave Regulations made pursuant to the National Defence Act.

Provincial, territorial, or federal elections

Pursuant to the Public Service Employment Act, Section 33(3), the Public Service Commission may grant leave without pay to employees who seek nomination as a candidate or to be a candidate for election, for a period ending on the day on which the results of the election are officially declared, or on an earlier day as requested by the employee if s/he has ceased to be a candidate. The Public Service Commission, in granting this type of leave, must be satisfied that the individual's subsequent re-employment in the department will not be prejudiced.

Pursuant to the Public Service Employment Act, Section 33(5), an employee ceases to be an employee once s/he is declared elected as a member of the House of Commons, of the legislature of a province, of the Council of the Yukon Territory, the Northwest Territories, or of the Legislative Assembly of Nunavut. There is no provision for severance pay for this type of cessation of employment.