Canada: Need A Couple Of Days For Family Responsibilities?

Last Updated: December 17 2014
Article by Patti Wheatley

While New Brunswick does not protect discrimination based on "family status", each province in Atlantic Canada has legislation that provides for family leave. In general terms, these provisions require employers to grant employees a specified amount of time off to fulfill routine family responsibilities, such as caring for a child during a minor illness. Family leave is distinct from compassionate care leave, which is a more substantial absence granted when an employee's family member is seriously ill. The legislative schemes in each Atlantic province are similar, but different.

New Brunswick
The New Brunswick Employment Standards Act ("Act")states that employees are entitled to three days unpaid family responsibility leave per year. The restrictions are:

  • The purpose of the leave should relate to the health, care or education of a person in a close family relationship with the employee.

This Act defines "close family relationship" as spouses, parents, children, siblings, grandparents, grandchildren, and can include people who are not married or related by blood. The employee is also required to provide notice of his/her intention to take leave and anticipated dates of absence. The provision for education responsibilities is unique to New Brunswick. The Act does not comment on its exact scope, but it would seem reasonable for such things as parent-teacher interviews to fall under this category.

Newfoundland and Labrador
In contrast with the New Brunswick Act, the Newfoundland Labour Standards Act gives employees seven days unpaid family responsibility leave. That being said, Newfoundland combines family and sick leave into one category. It therefore appears the seven day allocation is to be divided between those two types of leave. Other restrictions are:

  • The employee must have been employed for a continuous period of 30 days.
  • For a leave of more than three consecutive days, the employee must provide a written statement about the nature of the family responsibility.
  • Unlike the other provinces, Newfoundland and Labrador does not provide a list of what qualifies as a "family responsibility". For the purposes of family leave, Newfoundland and Labrador does not define who counts as "family".

Nova Scotia
Similar to Newfoundland and Labrador, the Nova Scotia Labour Standards Code lumps sick leave and family leave into a single category. However, where Newfoundland and Labrador provides seven days unpaid leave, Nova Scotia limits this to three days. The other Nova Scotia restrictions are:

  • The absence should be for sickness of a child, parent or another family member.

This list is somewhat narrower than the other Atlantic provinces in that sickness appears to be the only permissible reason for leave. Unlike Newfoundland and Labrador, there is no required minimum period of employment before taking advantage of these provisions. For the purposes of family leave, Nova Scotia does not provide a specific definition of "family".

Prince Edward Island
The Prince Edward Island Employment Standards Act ("Act")states that employees are entitled to three days unpaid family leave per year. The restrictions in Prince Edward Island are:

  • The employee must have been employed for a continuous period of six months.
  • The absence should relate to the health or care of a person who is an immediate or extended family member.

According to this Act, the leave can be taken for immediate family members (spouses, children and siblings) or extended family member (which means grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, siblings-in-law, or children-in-law). Similar to New Brunswick, this Act requires employees to provide notice of their intention to take leave, the duration and the commencement and end dates.

While each province has a slightly unique take on family leave, the idea remains essentially the same across the board. It is a relatively brief, unpaid absence requiring minimal or no documentation that enables employees cope with some of life's contingencies.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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