On April 9, 2018, the Minister of Labour introduced the Employment Standards Amendment Act, 2018 (Bill 6), which proposes amendments to the Employment Standards Act, extending leaves of absence to employees.
During leaves of absence recognized by the ESA, employers are not required to pay employees, but must allow the employee to return to their position at the end of the leave (except in certain, specific circumstances).
The proposed amendments affect the current pregnancy, parental and compassionate care leaves, and introduce new leaves related to a child’s death or disappearance.
Pregnant employees may begin pregnancy leaves 13 weeks before the expected due date, an increase from the current 11 weeks. Pregnancy leave remains 17 consecutive weeks long.
Parental leave has been significantly extended by the proposed amendments to align with the federal employment insurance maternity and parental benefits that came into effect in December 2017.
Birth mothers will have a possible total leave of 18 months (78 weeks). Mothers may take up to 61 consecutive weeks of parental leave following the end of their 17 weeks pregnancy leave. Partners, non-birth parents and adopting parents may take up to 62 consecutive weeks parental leave within 18 months of the child’s birth or adoption.
Compassionate care leave will also be increased to 27 weeks from 8 weeks and may be taken any time within a 52 week period. Compassionate care leave is available to employees to care for a family member who has a significant risk of death within 26 weeks. This change will also align with changes made to employment insurance benefits in 2016.
New leaves are proposed for a child’s death or crime-related disappearance. Parents will be entitled to leave of up to two years (104 weeks), if their child aged less than 19 years has died under any circumstances. Ontario is the only other province to offer such a leave.
Parents will also be entitled to a leave of up to one year (52 weeks), if their child has disappeared as a result of a crime. BC is the last province to offer such a leave.