On April 29, 2014, Bill 21, the Employment Standards Amendment Act (Leaves to Help Families), 2014, received Royal Assent and is set to come into force October 29, 2014. With the passing of this bill, employees in Ontario are now entitled to three new job-protected leaves (in addition to any entitlement to any other leave under the Employment Standards Act). These new leaves are:
- Family Caregiver Leave;
- Critically Ill Child Care Leave; and
- Crime-Related Death or Disappearance Leave.
Some of the key features of these leaves (which we reported on previously in March 2013 when the bill was introduced) include the following:
Family Caregiver Leave
All employees, regardless of their length of service, will be eligible for up to eight weeks per calendar year to provide care and support to a family member (including children, siblings, parents and grandparents) who has been certified by a “qualified health practitioner” (which includes not only physicians, but also registered nurses and psychologists) as having a “serious medical condition”. The eight weeks of leave will apply with respect to each family member described in the section and does not have to be taken in one consecutive block. An employee must provide written notice to the employer and provide a copy of the certificate upon request.
Critically Ill Child Care Leave
Employees who have been employed for at least six consecutive months will be eligible to take up to 37 weeks of unpaid leave to provide care or support to a critically ill child of the employee (as certified by a qualified health professional). Employees who are eligible for this leave may also be eligible to receive Employment Insurance from the federal government (known as special benefits for Parents of Critically Ill Children) for the duration of the leave. As with Family Caregiver Leave, written notice must be provided to the employer and the employer is entitled to request a copy of the certificate that qualifies the employee for the leave.
Crime-Related Death and Disappearance Leave
Employees who have been employed for at least six months and have a child who dies and it is probable, considering the circumstances, that the death was the result of a crime, are eligible for up to 104 weeks of leave. In addition, where it is probable that an employee’s child has disappeared as a result of a crime, that employee would be entitled to a leave of up to 52 weeks. Similar to Critically Ill Child Care Leave, employees may also be eligible to receive income support from the federal government in the form of a Support for Parents of Murdered or Missing Children grant.
Employers should review their existing policies, procedures and collective agreements within the next six months and consider how to incorporate these new leaves into their workplace.