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    Canadian Labour Laws for Small Business: Part Two – Leaves of Absence


    Important changes to federal employment standards under Part III the Canada Labour Code are set to come into effect on September 1, 2019, that will have a significant impact on many employers. One area that saw changes under the Code was the addition of new types of Leaves of Absence, and changes to some of the existing Leaves. In general, a leave of absence is applicable when the employee’s required time off is not covered under their employer’s existing benefits. Depending on the type of leave, the employee may be granted the time off with or without pay. For example, leaves for maternity and caring for a sick family members are unpaid. Shorter leaves such as for bereavement or voting are considered paid leaves by most of the provinces (see the table below). Leaves can vary from province to province. Make sure you know the rules that govern your area of business. (Actually, CanPAy Software Inc. has a great chart showing the differences in policy in the different provinces and territories.) Again, you will ultimately want a lawyer to ensure you are operating in compliance with all parts of the Code. In the meantime, here is some basic information on the new or changed leaves. Enough for you to understand where they might come into play.

    Personal Leave: Employees will now be entitled to five days of personal leave per year. For employees with three consecutive months of continuous employment the first three days must be paid. Employees may take this leave to treat illness or injury, carry out responsibilities related to the health or care of any family members, carry out responsibilities related to the education of any family members who are under 18 years of age, address any urgent matter concerning themselves or their family members, attend their citizenship ceremony or any other reason prescribed by regulation.

    Leave for Traditional Aboriginal Practices: This unpaid leave provides employees with up to five days per year to engage in traditional Aboriginal practices, such as hunting, fishing, harvesting and other practices prescribed by regulation. This leave is available for Aboriginal persons, (defined as Indian, Inuit or Métis) who have completed at least three consecutive months of continuous service.

    Leave for Victims of Family Violence: This leave provides an employee who is the victim of family violence, or who is the parent of a child who is the victim of family violence, up to 10 days leave per year. Employees who have completed three consecutive months of continuous employment are entitled be paid for the first five days of this leave.

    Leave for Court or Jury duty: This leave has no requirement for a minimum length of service, and permits employees to take unpaid leave to attend court to act as a witness or juror in a proceeding, or participate in a jury selection process.

    Leave for Pregnant or Nursing Women: If an employee is unable to work due to pregnancy or nursing, unpaid leave may be taken from the beginning of the pregnancy up until the 24th week following the birth of the employee’s child. Note that this leave is distinct from maternity or parental leave.

    Bereavement Leave: Bereavement leave will be increased from three days to five days. This change entitles employees who have completed three consecutive months of continuous employment to be paid for the first three days of leave and to take the leave in one or two periods.

    The entitlement to leave begins on the day the death of the immediate family member occurs, up to six weeks after the latest of the days on which any funeral, burial or memorial service occurs.

    Medical Leave: Medical leave replaced sick leave in the Code, and entitles every employee to an unpaid leave of up to 17 weeks as a result of personal illness or injury, organ or tissue donation, and medical appointments during working hours. Notably, employees are no longer required to have worked for a certain continuous period of time to benefit from this leave.

    The Canadian Labour Code is a big tome! These are just the new or revised Leaves of Absence. There are plenty more. For information on other types of Leaves of Absence in Ontario, visit “Your Guide to Employnebt Standards Act.” Not the lightes of reading, but necessary to know the basics if you’re going to run your business there. If you are operating outside of Ontario, make sure you look up the information particular to your province or territory.

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