November 13, 2014

Ontario Provides More Job-Protected Leaves

The Ontario Employment Standards Act, 2000 allows workers to take various leaves of absence from work without the fear of losing their job. The most recognizable of these types of leaves are the pregnancy and parental leaves. However, there are others, and effective October 29th, there will be three 3 more:

Current Leaves

Pregnancy Leave – allows women who have been hired at least 13 weeks before their due date to take up to 17 weeks of unpaid leave.

Parental Leave – allows new parents who have been hired at least 13 weeks prior to the start of the leave to take up to 37 weeks of unpaid leave to care for their new infant. The leave is reduced to 35 weeks if a pregnancy leave was also taken.

Personal Emergency Leave – this leave may be taken for personal illness, injury or medical emergency or for the death, illness, injury, medical emergency or urgent matter relating to a child, parent, sibling, or other relative who is dependent upon the employee for care. Employees may take up to 10 days per year. This leave applies only to employers who regularly employ over 50 workers.

Family Medical Leave – if a certain family member or someone who is close enough to the employee to be considered to be like a family member is at significant risk of death within 26 weeks, the employee can take up to 8 weeks of job-protected leave within a 26-week period.

Reservist Leave – Those who serve as a reservist in the Canadian Forces can have their job protected for the duration of the operation as set out by the Canadian Forces. Employees must have worked for the employer for at least 6 months prior to being eligible for this type of leave.

New Leaves

These leaves come into effect October 29th, 2014.

Family Care-Giver Leave – similar to the Family Medical Leave, employees will have up to 8 weeks of unpaid leave to care for an ill family member. However, under this leave, there does not have to be a risk of death. A medical certificate from a health care practitioner will be required.

Critically Ill Child Care Leave – employees can take up to 37 weeks of unpaid leave in order to care for a critically ill child under the age of 18.

Crime-Related Child Death and Disappearance Leave – parents of a child who has disappeared as a result of a crime can take up to 52 weeks of unpaid leave. That is extended to 104 weeks for parents whose child’s death was the result of a crime.

Employees cannot be penalized in any way for asking about, planning to take, or taking these leaves. Some of the leaves have service requirements that need to be met before the employee is eligible for the leave. In all cases, employees are required to provide notice to their employer of the intention to take a leave and their anticipated return date. Employers may request medical certificates to approve the leave.

At the end of the leave, the employee must be returned to the job they left or to one that is comparable in terms of seniority, responsibility, and pay. If an employee took a leave prior to completing their probationary period, the probationary period resumes upon their return.

Throughout the duration of any of these leaves, employer-paid benefits continue to accrue. For employee benefits plans, if employees are required to contribute to the plan while in active employment, they will be required to make the same contributions throughout the leave.

The leaves of absence outlined are unpaid. The legislation protects only the job. However, the federal government provides financial benefits via the Employment Insurance Act (EI). Financial assistance is available through EI for maternity and parental leaves, compassionate care leaves, and for parents who take time off to tend to critically ill children.

Information about job protected leaves can be found at www.labour.gov.on.ca and at www.servicecanada.gc.ca for EI benefits.

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