Companies with employees in Ontario, particularly companies that
sponsor or administer employee benefit plans, including extended
health plans and pension plans, will be affected by the passage of
Bill 21, the Employment Standards Amendment Act (Leaves to Help
Families), 2014. Effective October 29, 2014, the Ontario Employment
Standards Act, 2000 (ESA) will be amended, and eligible employees
will be entitled to three new unpaid, job-protected statutory
leaves of absence:
Family Caregiver Leave: up to 8 weeks of
unpaid, job-protected leave, for employees to provide care or
support to specified family members if a qualified health
practitioner issues a certificate stating that the family member
has a serious medical condition.
Critically Ill Child Care Leave: up to 37
weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave, to provide care or support to
a critically ill child of the employee if a qualified health
practitioner issues a certificate with prescribed information.
Crime-Related Child Death and Disappearance
Leave: up to 52 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave, if a
child of the employee disappears and it is probable that the child
disappeared as a result of a crime; for eligible employees, up to
104 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave, if a child of the
employee dies and it is probable that the child died as a result of
These three new statutory leaves of absence join the other
unpaid, job-protected statutory leaves of absence currently
provided for in the ESA, such as pregnancy leave, parental leave,
and personal emergency leave.
Similar to almost all job-protected leaves of absence protected
under the ESA, during the period of the three new statutory leaves
of absence, eligible employees continue to participate in their
employer's benefit plans, including pension plans. During such
periods, employers must continue to make their contributions to the
benefit plans, unless the eligible employee gives her or his
employer a written notice that she or he does not intend to pay the
employee's contributions (if any).
All employers that sponsor or administer employee benefit plans
should consider the new legislation and assess whether any changes
should be made. For example, employers may wish to update their
benefits-related documents to reflect these three new statutory
leaves of absence. This may include, for instance, amending
employee benefit booklets or pension plan texts to integrate the
three new statutory leaves of absence, if appropriate. Employers
should also update their administrative practices to reflect these
new statutory leaves of absence.
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.
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.
On October 13, 2016, the Supreme Court of Canada denied leave to appeal an Ontario Court of Appeal decision which ordered an employer to pay a former employee 37 months of salary and benefits following termination.
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).