On March 8, 2016, two new Private Members’ Bills were proposed before the Ontario Legislature that would add new leaves of absence to the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (the “ESA”).

Bill 175 – Jonathan’s Law (Employee Leave of Absence When Child Dies), 2016

Bill 175 was proposed before the Ontario Legislature on March 8, 2016. If passed, the Bill would amend the ESA to include a Child Death Leave. This leave would be available for employees who have been employed for six consecutive months in respect of a child, step-child or foster child who is under 18 years of age. The leave would allow an employee up to 52 weeks of unpaid leave if their child dies for reasons other than as related to a crime, which is covered by the Crime-Related Child Death Leave. This leave would be available in addition to Family Medical Leave, Family Caregiver Leave, Crime-Related Child Disappearance Leave, and Personal Emergency Leave, which are already available under the ESA. However, the leave would not be available to an employee that was charged with a crime in relation to the death of his or her child.

Bill 175 is in its early stages, however, we will continue to advise of any new developments.

Bill 177 – Domestic and Sexual Violence Workplace Leave, Accommodation and Training Act, 2016

Bill 177 was proposed before the Ontario Legislature on March 8, 2016. If passed, the Bill would amend the ESA to include definitions of “domestic violence”, “intimate partner” and “sexual violence”. The Bill would also affirm employers’ obligations to accommodate changes to an employee’s place of work, or work schedule, where the employee or the employee’s child has experienced domestic violence or sexual violence. For example, employers may be required to accommodate an employee’s need to work at a place of work other than where the employer has assigned the employee, to allow an employee to work fewer hours, or to allow the employee to work at different times than the employee is regularly assigned up to the point of undue hardship.

Further, if passed, the Bill would add a paid leave of absence of up to 10 days per calendar year if an employee or the employee’s child (which is defined as a child, step-child or foster child under 18 years of age) experienced domestic violence or sexual violence. The employee would be entitled to the leave for the purpose of:

  • seeking medical attention for the employee or the employee’s child in respect of a physical or psychological injury or disability caused by the violence;
  • obtaining services for the employee or the employee’s child in respect of the violence (such as from a victim services organization, domestic violence shelter, rape crisis centre, sexual assault centre, etc.);
  • obtaining psychological or other professional counselling for the employee or the employee’s child in respect of the violence;
  • relocating temporarily or permanently for the purpose of making future violence less likely;
  • seeking legal or law enforcement assistance, including preparing for and participating in any civil, criminal or administrative proceedings; or
  • doing anything else prescribed.

If the employee requires more than 10 days of leave for these purposes, the employee would be entitled to take a leave for a “prescribed duration”, which has not yet to be defined, or for such time as is reasonable. Any leave over and above 10 days would not be paid. Employers would be entitled to require that the employee provide any evidence reasonable in the circumstances to demonstrate entitlement to the leave.

Bill 177 is also in its early stages. We will monitor the progress of this Bill and provide updates as they become available.

If either or both of the proposed new leaves are passed, these leaves will add to a growing list of leaves of absence available under the ESA. If Bill 177 is passed, this would be the first paid leave of absence entitlement for employees under the ESA. All of the current leaves under the ESA provide only for unpaid leaves of absence. Employers must remain vigilant in understanding what leaves are available and when employees are entitled to such leaves.