Ontario’s new Minister of Labour, Yasir Naqvi, recently tabled Bill 21, the Employment Standards Amendment Act (Leaves to Help Families), 2013.  If passed, Bill 21 would entitle provincially regulated Ontario employees to 3 new job-protected leaves: Family Caregiver Leave; Critically Ill Child Care Leave; and Crime-Related Child Death and Disappearance Leave.  As their names suggest, each of these leaves are intended to assist employees by protecting their job security while on leave due to family demands or crises.

As previously discussed, in 2011 the Government introduced Bill 30, which contained amendments similar to the proposed Family Caregiver Leave. However, Bill 30 fell victim to the prorogation of the Ontario legislature in October 2012.  The leaves of absence set out in Bill 21 are in addition to Family Medical Leave, available when an employee’s family member has a serious medical condition with a significant risk of death occurring within 26 weeks.

Family Caregiver Leave

Employees that need to provide care and support to a family member with a serious medical condition would be entitled to up to 8 weeks of unpaid leave.  A “family member” is defined as:

  • 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 grand-parent, 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; and
  • any individual prescribed as a family member.

If requested by the employer, an employee must provide a certificate issued by a qualified health practitioner stating that the family member has a “serious medical condition.”  The leave must be taken in full weeks, and requests must be presented to the employer in writing.

Critically Ill Child Care Leave

Individuals that have been employed for at least 6 consecutive months will be entitled to up to 37 weeks of unpaid leave, taken in full weeks of a single period or 2 or more periods that together do not exceed the entitlement, to provide care or support to their critically ill child.  Bill 21’s definition of a “critically ill child” was adopted from the Employment Insurance Act, but expanded to include step-children and foster children, and children that are critically ill as a result of an injury.  Employers must be advised of an employee’s intention to take this leave in writing, and a medical certificate attesting to the illness of the child and outlining the period during which the child requires care or support must be issued by a qualified health practitioner and provided to the employer.

Crime-Related Child Death and Disappearance Leave

Employees who have been employed for at least 6 consecutive months and are parents to a child who disappeared as a result of a crime will be entitled to up to 52 weeks of unpaid leave.  Where it is probable, considering the circumstances, that an employee’s child died as a result of a crime, the employee will be entitled to 104 weeks of unpaid leave.  Bill 21 defines “child” as a child, step-child or foster child less than 18 years of age; and “crime” as an offence under the Criminal Code, other than an excluded offence as prescribed by the regulations made under paragraph 209.4(f) of Canada Labour Code.  Where the employee is charged with the crime, or where it is probable, considering the circumstances, that the child was a party to the crime, the employee will not be entitled to the leave.  An employee who wishes to take this leave must advise his or her employer in writing and provide a written plan that indicates the weeks that will constitute the absence. This leave may be taken in a single period.

Our views

If passed, Bill 21 will significantly expand family leave entitlements under the Employment Standards Act, 2000 which currently only provides 10 days of Personal Emergency Leave and 8 weeks of Family Medical Leave.  We will provide further updates on Bill 21 as it progresses through the process.