In our May 2, 2014 blog, we wrote about Bill 21, the Employment Standards Amendments Act (Leaves to Help Families), 2014, which introduced three new forms of statutorily-protected leaves to the Ontario Employment Standards Act, 2000 (the “Act”). The Bill received all party support in the Legislature. As of October 29, 2014, in addition to the statutory leaves currently available under the Act, eligible employees may now be entitled to the following:
Family Caregiver Leave
An employee may be eligible for a “family caregiver leave” of up to eight weeks in a calendar year to “provide care or support” to an individual specified in the legislation where a qualified health practitioner certifies that the individual has a “serious medical condition”. For purposes of the leave, a “serious medical condition” includes a chronic or episodic condition. The range of individuals to whom this leave applies is defined broadly and includes for example the employee’s spouse, parent, child, sibling and a “relative of the employee who is dependent on the employee for care and assistance.”
The annual leave can apply for each “individual” defined in the legislation in a calendar year.
Critically Ill Child Care Leave
An employee who has been employed with an employer for at least six consecutive months may be eligible for up to 37 weeks of unpaid leave to provide care or support to a critically ill child if a qualified health practitioner certifies that the child requires the care or support of the employee. For purposes of the leave, a “critically ill child” is defined as a child “whose baseline state of health has significantly changed and whose life is at risk as a result of an illness or injury.” For purposes of this provision, a “child” is one who is under 18 years old and is a child, step child or foster child or child who is under legal guardianship.
Crime-Related Child Death or Disappearance Leave
An employee who has been employed with an employer for at least six consecutive months may be entitled to a leave of up to 104-weeks in the case of a child’s death where “it is probable, considering the circumstances that the child died as a result of a crime” and the employee has not been charged with that crime. The leave will not be available where “it is probable, considering the circumstances, that the child was a party to the crime.” In the case of a child’s disappearance, the leave of absence is up to 52 weeks. For purposes of this leave provision, “crime” is defined as an offence under the Criminal Code other than an offence prescribed by regulations made under paragraph 209.4(f) of the Canada Labour Code. For purposes of this provision, a “child” is one who is under 18 years old and is a child, step child or foster child.
These new leaves are available to eligible employees, without pay, in addition to the other leaves provided for currently in the Act. An employee must notify the employer in writing of his/her intention to take the leave of absence, and where leave is taken to care for a critically ill child, or for a child’s crime-related death or disappearance, a written plan outlining the length of absence must also be provided. The sections of the legislation which provide for certain rights in the cases of leaves also apply to the new statutory leaves.
It should be noted that employees who may be eligible for Critically Ill Child Care Leave or the Crime-Related Child Death and Disappearance Leave under the Act may also be eligible for benefits and other financial support through the federal Employment Insurance scheme and other federal programs.