Last month, the Government of Ontario introduced two bills which would provide for new leaves under the Employment Standards Act, 2000 as well as new training obligations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

Leave proposed for grieving parents

On March 8, 2016, the Government introduced Bill 175, Jonathan's Law (Employee Leave of Absence When Child Dies), 2016. Under Bill 175, an employee who has been employed by his or her employer for at least six consecutive months will be entitled to a leave of absence without pay of up to 52 weeks if a child of the employee dies. "Child" is defined in the Bill to include children, step-children and foster children under the age of 18.

Leave for Victims of Domestic and Sexual Violence

On the same day, the Government introduced Bill 177, Domestic and Sexual Violence Workplace Leave, Accommodation and Training Act, 2016, which, if passed, will require employers to provide employees with the following:

Domestic Violence or Sexual Violence Leave:

Employers will be required to provide a leave of absence of a "reasonable duration" to employees who have experienced (or who have children who have experienced) domestic or sexual violence. This leave is available to be used by employees for specific purposes, including:

  • seeking medical attention or counselling related to the violence;
  • obtaining support services or legal assistance; or
  • relocating (temporarily or permanently) to reduce the likelihood of future violence.
  • Unlike most ESA leaves which are unpaid, Domestic Violence or Sexual Violence leave will provide employees with up to 10 days of paid leave per calendar year, which would make this the first and only paid leave under the Employment Standards Act.

Reasonable Accommodation

The second requirement under Bill 177 will be for employers to accommodate, up to the point of undue hardship, employees who have (or whose children have) experienced domestic or sexual violence. This may include changing an employee's place of work and/or their hours of employment to accommodate the employee's circumstances.

Information and Training:

Finally, this new Bill will require employers to ensure that every manager, supervisor and worker receives information and instruction about domestic and sexual violence in the workplace. This requirement will be enacted under the Occupational Health and Safety Act and will be in addition to the requirements of Bill 132 that we wrote about last month.

As both pieces of proposed legislation are in their early stages, we will continue to provide updates on their progress. If you have any questions regarding these proposed amendments to the ESA and OHSA, do not hesitate to contact anyone in our Labour and Employment Group.

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