On October 29, 2014, the Ontario Employment Standards Amendment Act (Leaves to Help Families), 2014, Bill 21, comes into force. Bill 21 introduces three new leaves to Employment Standards Act, 2000 (the “Act”): (1) Family Caregiver Leave, (2) Critically Ill Child Care Leave, and (3) Crime-Related Child Death or Disappearance Leave.

  1. Family Caregiver Leave

An employee will be entitled to an unpaid leave of absence in order to provide care or support to a family member if a qualified health practitioner issues a certificate stating that the family member has a serious medical condition. The employee is required to produce the certificate to his or her employer upon request.

The Family Caregiver Leave will apply to the following family members: an employee’s spouse; parent, step-parent, foster parent of the employee or their spouse; a grandparent, step-grandparent, grandchild or step-grandchild of the employee or their spouse; the spouse of a child of the employee; the employee’s brother or sister; a relative of the employee who is dependent on the employee for care or assistance; and any individual prescribed as a family member.

The leave may be up to eight weeks for each family member in each calendar year. The employee must advise the employer in writing before going on leave or as soon as possible after beginning the leave.

  1. Critically Ill Child Care Leave

An employee who has been with an employer for at least six months will be entitled to an unpaid leave of absence to care for a critically ill child. A critically ill child is one whose life is at risk and whose baseline state of health has significantly changed.  A qualified health practitioner must issue a certificate stating that the child is critically ill and requires the care and support of one or more parents. The certificate should set out the period for which a child requires care and support.

The Critically Ill Child Care Leave will apply with respect to a child who is: a child, step-child, foster child, or child under legal guardianship. The child must be under 18 years of age.

Leave may be for a period of up to 37 weeks and can be taken in consecutive weeks or separately. If the certificate specifies a shorter period of time than 37 weeks, then the period in the certificate applies. The Act contains provisions for extensions of time and additional leaves.

An employee who intends to go on a Critically Ill Child Care Leave must advise the employer in writing and provide a written plan that indicates the weeks that he or she will be on leave. The employer may ask the employee to produce the health practitioner’s certificate.

  1. Crime-Related Child Death or Disappearance Leave

Employees who have been with their employer for at least six consecutive months will be entitled to Crime-Related Child Death or Disappearance Leave. “Child” includes a child, step-child or foster child less than 18 years of age. An employee will be entitled to an unpaid leave of absence of up to 104 weeks if his or her child died and the death was probably the result of a crime. An employee will be entitled to an unpaid leave of absence without pay for up to 52 weeks if his or her child disappeared and the disappearance was probably the result of a crime. The Act will also address circumstances where a missing child is found.

The employee will not be entitled to a leave of absence if the employee is charged with a crime related to the child’s death or disappearance or, if it is probable, considering the circumstances, that the child was a party to the crime. If a change of circumstances indicates that the child’s death or disappearance was not the result of a crime, the employee’s entitlement to leave will end.

An employee who intends to go on leave must advise his or her employer in writing and provide the employer with a written plan indicating the weeks that he or she will be on leave. This must be done prior to commencing leave or as soon as possible after beginning it. In most cases, this leave must be taken in a single period.

As an employer, you should review your policies on leaves of absence and ensure that your practices reflect the current additions to the Act. Our lawyers can assist you in reviewing your policies and understanding your obligations under the Act.