Bill 21, the Employment Standards Amendment Act (Leaves to Help Families), 2014, introduces three new unpaid leaves that Ontario employers must provide to qualifying employees: Family Caregiver Leave, Critically Ill Child Care Leave and Crime-related Child Death or Disappearance Leave.

The bill recently received Royal Assent and will come into force on October 29, 2014.

These new leaves are in addition to Family Medical Leave and Personal Emergency Leave, which are already provided for under the ESA. While these leaves are unpaid, employment insurance benefits may be available during all or a portion of the leave.

Family Caregiver Leave

The Family Caregiver Leave allows an employee up to eight weeks of unpaid leave from work, per calendar year, to provide care or support for a family member with a serious medical condition. To qualify for the leave, the employee must provide care for one of the following individuals:

  • The employee’s spouse.
  • A parent, step-parent or foster parent of the employee or the employee’s spouse.
  • A child, step-child or foster child of the employee or the employee’s spouse.
  • A grandparent, step-grandparent, grandchild or step-grandchild of the employee or the employee’s 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.

An employee is entitled to the leave if a qualified health practitioner issues a certificate stating that the individual has a serious medical condition. Employers may request a copy of the certificate issued in support of the leave.

Critically Ill Child Care Leave

The Critically Ill Child Care Leave allows employees who have been working for at least six months to take up to 37 weeks of unpaid leave from work to care for a critically ill child. Under this provision, a ‘‘child’’ is defined as a child, step-child, foster child or child who is under legal guardianship, and who is under 18 years of age. The provisions also define critically ill child as meaning ‘‘a child whose baseline state of health has significantly changed and whose life is at risk as a result of an illness or injury.’’

The employee will be entitled to the leave where a qualified medical practitioner issues a certificate that states the child is a critically ill who requires the care or support of the parent and sets out the required period of time.  

Crime-related Child Death or Disappearance Leave

Under the Crime-related Child Death or Disappearance Leave, employees who have worked for at least six months can take up to 52 weeks of unpaid leave from work where their child, step-child or foster child, under the age of 18, has disappeared as a result of a crime. The unpaid leave can be up to 104 weeks where the child dies as a result of a crime.

In addition to providing statutory leaves, employers must also meet obligations under Ontario’s Human Rights Code that require the accommodation of family status. This may include providing reasonable accommodation for an employee’s family-related obligations.