Canada: Recent Proposed Leaves For Nova Scotia

The Nova Scotia government introduced Bill 29 on September 14, 2018 to increase pregnancy and parental leave to reflect the recent changes by the federal government to Employment Insurance ("EI"). Those EI changes extended employment insurance for maternity and parental leave from a combined 50 weeks to 76 weeks and came into effect on December 3, 2017. The majority of provinces have amended their employment standards to match the federal government's changes to employment insurance (see chart below).

Consistent with the federal EI changes, Bill 29 reduces pregnancy leave from 17 weeks to 16 weeks (to reflect the now reduced EI waiting period of one week), increases parental leave from 52 weeks to 77 weeks and also increases the maximum combined leave from 52 weeks to 77 weeks. Bill 29 received second reading in the legislature on September 14, 2018. On September 24, 2018 the NDP brought a motion at Law Amendments to reduce the one year employment requirement for pregnancy and parental leave, to 17 weeks. The motion was defeated; Bill 29 was referred back to the Legislature without any amendments.

As can be seen from the chart below, the proposed changes would bring Nova Scotia in line with the majority of Canadian provinces (excluding Quebec):

Province Maternity leave
(in weeks)
Parental leave
(in weeks)
Maximum leave
(in weeks)
Nova Scotia (existing legislation) 17 52 52
Nova Scotia (proposed changes) 16 77 77
Alberta 16 62 78
British Columbia 17 62 78
Manitoba 17 63 78
New Brunswick 17 62 78 
Newfoundland and Labrador 17 61 78 
Ontario 17 63 78
Prince Edward Island 17 35 52
Saskatchewan 18 37 52 


Employers who have policies providing "top-up" for pregnancy and parental leave should ensure that Bill 29 does not overextend their policy beyond the desired effect.

Sick leave and domestic violence leave

Last week, the Nova Scotia NDP introduced two bills which, if enacted, would provide paid days for both sick leave and domestic violence leave, and also remove the right of employers to ask for a doctor's note.

Currently, s. 60D of the Labour Standards Code ("Code") provides up to three days unpaid sick leave for employees.

On September 20, 2018 the NDP introduced legislation to amend the Code to provide six paid days and also remove the right of employers to ask for a doctor's note. The proposed NDP amendment follows in the footsteps of Ontario Bill 148 (passed by the Liberal Government of Ontario) which came into force in January 2018. Bill 148 abolished the employer's right to ask for a doctor's note and increased the number of personal emergency leave (i.e. sick leave) to 10 days per year including two paid days. We will continue to monitor the NDP's proposed amendments.

As for domestic violence leave, on April 17, 2018 the Nova Scotia government passed legislation amending the Code to provide for domestic violence leave. The amendments are awaiting proclamation and will provide 10 intermittent unpaid days and also 16 continuous weeks of unpaid leave. On September 21, 2018 the NDP introduced a bill to provide for the first five days of domestic violence leave to be paid. The Department of Labour and Advanced Education are holding consultations with stakeholders next week on whether to include paid days in domestic violence leave.

Currently, five provinces have proposed amending their legislation to include paid leave for domestic violence and two provinces have legislation in force which provide paid leave (Manitoba and Quebec). The NDP's proposal for six sick days of paid leave would place Nova Scotia well above provincial standards:

Province Paid days domestic violence (proposed or enacted amendments) Paid days sick leave (enacted amendments) Unpaid sick leave (enacted amendments)
Nova Scotia (existing legislation) --- --- 3
Nova Scotia (proposed changes by NDP) 5 6 ---
Manitoba 5 --- 3
British
Columbia
10 ---  --- 
Alberta --- --- 
Saskatchewan 5 ---  --- 
Ontario 10
New 
Brunswick
5 --- 
Prince Edward
Island
3
Quebec 2 ---  10 
Newfoundland
and Labrador
--- --- 
7

A change from unpaid to paid leave would impose a considerable new cost to Nova Scotia companies. We will continue to monitor the proposed amendments.

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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