On April 29, 2014, Bill 21, the Employment Standards
Amendment Act (Leaves to Help Families), 2014, received Royal
Assent and is set to come into force October 29, 2014. With
the passing of this bill, employees in Ontario are now entitled to
three new job-protected leaves (in addition to any entitlement to
any other leave under the Employment Standards Act).
These new leaves are:
Family Caregiver Leave;
Critically Ill Child Care Leave; and
Crime-Related Death or Disappearance Leave.
Some of the key features of these leaves (which we reported on previously in March 2013 when the
bill was introduced) include the following:
Family Caregiver Leave
All employees, regardless of their length of service, will be
eligible for up to eight weeks per calendar year to provide care
and support to a family member (including children, siblings,
parents and grandparents) who has been certified by a
"qualified health practitioner" (which includes not only
physicians, but also registered nurses and psychologists) as having
a "serious medical condition". The eight weeks of
leave will apply with respect to each family member described in
the section and does not have to be taken in one consecutive
block. An employee must provide written notice to the employer
and provide a copy of the certificate upon request.
Critically Ill Child Care Leave
Employees who have been employed for at least six consecutive
months will be eligible to take up to 37 weeks of unpaid leave to
provide care or support to a critically ill child of the employee
(as certified by a qualified health professional). Employees
who are eligible for this leave may also be eligible to receive
Employment Insurance from the federal government (known as special
benefits for Parents of Critically Ill Children) for the duration
of the leave. As with Family Caregiver Leave, written notice must
be provided to the employer and the employer is entitled to request
a copy of the certificate that qualifies the employee for the
Crime-Related Death and Disappearance Leave
Employees who have been employed for at least six months and
have a child who dies and it is probable, considering the
circumstances, that the death was the result of a crime, are
eligible for up to 104 weeks of leave. In addition, where it
is probable that an employee's child has disappeared as a
result of a crime, that employee would be entitled to a leave of up
to 52 weeks. Similar to Critically Ill Child Care Leave,
employees may also be eligible to receive income support from the
federal government in the form of a Support for Parents of Murdered
or Missing Children grant.
Employers should review their existing policies, procedures and
collective agreements within the next six months and consider how
to incorporate these new leaves into their workplace.
Unfortunately, reasonable accommodation for employees in the workplace continues to be the source of significant litigation and even today we continue to see outrageous examples of employers behaving badly.
A former teacher at Bodwell High School has learned a valuable lesson from the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal— it is not discriminatory for an employer to offer child-related benefits to only employees with children.
We are now beginning to see reported cases involving charges and subsequent fines laid against employers for failing to provide information, instruction and supervision to protect a worker from workplace violence.
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