The Act respecting labour standards (“ALS”) sets out a number of rights when it comes to an employee’s immediate family.

The most commonly known family rights are without a doubt maternity leave (18 weeks), paternity leave (5 weeks) and parental leave (52 weeks).  While these leaves are unpaid under the ALS, the Quebec Parental Insurance Plan (“QPIP”) does provide benefit payments for a portion of these leaves to eligible workers.  Parents can choose between the basic plan (lower benefits for a longer period) and the special plan (higher benefits for a shorter period); the choice of plan is determined by the first of the two parents to receive the benefits and is irrevocable once chosen.  For workers interested in knowing what the benefit payments would look like over the course of the leave, the QPIP website provides a benefits calculator.

There are also a number of other family care rights under the ALS.  For example, an employee is entitled to be absent, without pay, up to 10 days every year for family obligations related to the care, health or education of his child or the child of his spouse (the child does not have to be a minor).  Once an employee has three months of uniterrupted service, he or she can also be absent for a maximum of 12 weeks over a period of 12 months where he must stay with his child or the child of his spouse because of a serious illness or accident.  If a minor child has a potentially mortal illness, this leave can be extended to up to 104 weeks.

The ALS provides even further rights when it comes to the death or disappearance of an employee’s child.  In the case of the disappearance of a minor child, the employee can be absent for up to 52 weeks.  Should the employee’s child commit suicide, the employee can be absent for up to 52 weeks as well. If the accident or death of the child is the result of a criminal offence, the employee can take an absence of up to 104 weeks. The ALS has specifically added, however, that the employee cannot take advantage of these latter provisions if it can be inferred from the circumstances that the employee or child of full age was a party to the offence.

An employee who will takes a prolonged leave of absence with regard to these family matters must notify his or her employer as soon as possible.

While these are the minimum provided by law, an employer can certainly grant more generous benefits, either through its policies or collective agreements.  While the ALS provides that these absences are without pay (rather, it is the employment relationship itself that is protected), an employee may be able to claim employment-insurance benefits (for example, compassionate care benefits).

As is clear from the extensive list of permissible absences, the ALS offers a wide protection to parents who need to care for their children (and themselves).