Employers should be aware that effective as of October 29, 2014, statutory leaves of absence in Ontario under the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (the “ESA”) will be expanded to include the new “family caregiver leave”, “critically ill child care leave” and “crime-related death and child disappearance leave”. These leaves of absence are in addition to the current Ontario “organ donor leave”, “family medical leave”, “personal emergency leave”, “pregnancy leave”, “parental leave”, “reservist leave” and “emergency leave – declared emergencies”. Details of the new leaves of absence are as follows:
1. Family caregiver leave – Up to 8 weeks per year can be taken in order to take care of a family member with a serious medical condition.
2. Critically ill child care leave - Up to 37 weeks per year can be taken in order to care for a critically ill child under the age of 18.
3. Crime-related child death and disappearance leave - Up to 52 weeks can be taken if an employee’s child disappears and it is probable that the child disappeared as the result of a crime. If a child dies as a result of the crime, the leave period is increased to up to 104 weeks.
Each of these leaves of absence are unpaid, and under each leave time off can be taken by the employee in bits and pieces rather than altogether. Employees using the critically ill child care leave may be eligible for Employment Insurance benefits for a portion of the leave; however guidance should be sought from Service Canada, as the leave provisions do not match up precisely with EI benefit eligibility.
As a reminder, the current statutory personal leaves of absence which are already in place in Ontario are the following:
(i) Personal emergency leave – Up to 10 days of leave per year to deal with a personal emergency, illness, injury or urgent matter for oneself or a specified family member. Personal emergency leave is only required in workplaces with 50 or more employees in Ontario.
(ii) Family Medical Leave – Up to 8 weeks of leave per year to provide care or support to certain family members for whom a qualified health practitioner has issued a certificate stating that the family member has a serious illness with a significant risk of death occurring within a period of 26 weeks.
(iii) Organ Donor Leave – Up to 13 weeks of leave per year for those employees who have undergone surgery for the purpose of organ donation.
(iv) Reservist Leave – Time off for reservists to assist with international and domestic emergencies, for the period of time required to assist with the operation.
In addition to the above leaves, all employers should be aware of their obligations to provide pregnancy and parental leave under the ESA.
Employers should review their employee handbooks prior to October 29th in order to determine how the new leaves fit with existing statutory and non-statutory leave entitlements.