New and extended leaves support working families

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Your new government introduced amendments to the Employment Standards Act.

The amendments, if approved by the legislature, will better support working families in British Columbia by providing new, extended and more flexible maternity, parental and compassionate care leaves.

These amendments are about supporting B.C. workers and extending compassion to families who face tragic circumstances, such as the loss or disappearance of a child, or the need to care for a dying family member. It will not erase the pain experienced during a personal or family crisis, but it can help ease the worry and stress over job security.

The amendments will allow mothers to start their pregnancy leave, also known as maternity leave, as early as 13 weeks before the expected birth date, up from the current 11 weeks. New parents will also have the option to take a longer unpaid parental leave to care for their new child – resulting in a total of up to 18 months of leave for birth mothers – while ensuring job protection. These changes align B.C.’s leave provisions with federal employment insurance (EI) benefits.

Parents who face life’s most difficult circumstances, which may require extended absence from their jobs, will now have additional supports. In addition to the extended maternity and parental leave amendments, Bains introduced a new unpaid, job-protected leave of up to 52 weeks to help if a worker’s child is missing as a result of a crime. Currently, there is no provision in B.C. for parents to take a leave from work in the event their child is missing.

In addition, the Province will introduce a new unpaid leave providing job protection for parents dealing with the death of a child. This leave will provide up to 104 weeks if a worker’s child under 19 years of age dies under any circumstances – a significant addition to the three days of unpaid “bereavement leave” currently available. B.C. will join Ontario as the only provinces to offer job protection after a child’s death for any reason.

Further, the amendments to compassionate care leave will more than triple the length of leave, from eight weeks to 27 weeks. This is available to an employee who must care for a family member who is terminally ill.

The changes will ensure B.C.’s employment standards for these five special work absences are at least as good, if not better, than those offered by other jurisdictions in Canada. They will also enable eligible British Columbians to access full EI maternity, parental and compassionate care benefits without jeopardizing their job.

I’m proud that our government recognizes no one should have to fear for their job while they are taking care of their loved ones. These changes will give women and all workers some peace of mind that their jobs are protected when they are caring for family members at home.

The introduction of these new, extended and more flexible leaves is a step toward meeting government’s commitment to updating employment standards to reflect the changing nature of work, and to promote flexibility and fairness. The Ministry of Labour is looking to make broader amendments to the Employment Standards Act, considering recommendations from the BC Law Institute’s review of the act – which is currently underway – and from organizations like the B.C. Employment Standards Coalition.

Quick Facts:

* B.C.’s Ministry of Labour is responsible for the Employment Standards Act. This legislation gives B.C. workers the right to unpaid, job-protected pregnancy, parental and compassionate care leave.

* The federal government financially supports eligible employees by providing benefits during these leaves through the EI program.

 

BACKGROUNDER
Amendments for leaves of absence under the Employment Standards Act

Pregnancy and parental leaves

* Changes to the maternity and parental leaves will be available to people currently on a parental leave, who have requested leave but have not yet taken it, or who may be planning leave when the amendments come into force.

* The legislative amendments will align B.C.’s pregnancy and parental leave periods with new federal EI maternity and parental benefits, which came into effect in December 2017.

Pregnancy leave

* Pregnancy leave – often called maternity leave – is 17 consecutive weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave taken by expectant or new mothers near the end of a pregnancy and immediately after childbirth.

* The proposed change will allow pregnant workers to begin unpaid, job-protected pregnancy leave 13 weeks before their expected due date, up from the current 11 weeks.

* This will provide workers with more flexibility to consider their personal, health, and workplace circumstances when choosing to begin their pregnancy leave.

Parental leave

* Parental leave is unpaid, job-protected leave taken by any parent, birth or adoptive, to care for a new child.

* The proposed change will allow parents to take a longer unpaid, job-protected parental leave in order to ensure that those workers who take advantage of the new extended EI parental benefit will have a job to return to at the end of their leave.

* Birth mothers may begin up to 61 consecutive weeks of parental leave immediately after the end of their 17-week pregnancy leave, for a total possible leave of 78 weeks (18 months).

* Partners, non-birth parents or adopting parents may begin up to 62 consecutive weeks of parental leave within 78 weeks (18 months) of the child’s birth or adoption. As before, this slightly longer leave recognizes the EI waiting period.

Compassionate care leave

* The compassionate care leave will increase the length of unpaid, job-protected leave available to an employee to care for and support a family member who has a significant risk of death within 26 weeks. The leave will increase from eight weeks to 27 weeks.

* The proposed change will allow the leave to be taken at any time within a 52-week period, though the actual amount of leave cannot exceed 27 weeks in total.

* This change will align B.C.’s leave benefits with changes made to federal EI benefits in 2016.

Child death leave

* The proposed change will support parents grieving the death of a child by providing a new unpaid, job-protected leave of up to 104 weeks, or two years.

* B.C. is only one of two provinces, along with Ontario, to offer parents a two-year leave if their child has died under any circumstances, not just if the death is crime-related.

* Consistent with B.C.’s Age of Majority Act, a “child” is defined as a person less than 19 years.

* Leave must be taken in a single, continuous period, or, with the employer’s consent, it may be taken on an intermittent or part-time basis.

Crime-related child disappearance leave

* Currently, B.C. is the only province that does not provide workers with the right to job-protected leave if their child has gone missing as the result of a crime.

* The proposed change will provide unpaid, job-protected leave of up to 52 weeks, or one year, if a parent’s child disappears as a result of a crime.

* Leave must be taken in a single, continuous period, or, with the employer’s consent, it may be taken on an intermittent or part-time basis.

* If a missing child is found alive, the parent is entitled to remain on leave for 14 days after the child is found.

* If the missing child is found dead, the parent’s entitlement to crime-related disappearance of child leave ends, and the parent becomes entitled to full leave for the death of a child.