More protected leaves for Ontario employees?

There are several proposed amendments to the Ontario Employment Standards Act  (ESA), which would allow employees more protected leave of absence opportnities.
The ESA presently provides job protection for the following leaves of absence:

  • Pregnancy leave;
  • Parental leave;
  • Family medical leave;
  • Organ donor leave;
  • Personal emergency leave;
  • Emergency leave, declared emergencies; and
  • Reservist leave.

It has been suggested that Ontario should consider expanding more protected leaves to include:

  • Family caregiver leave;
  • Critically ill child care leave; and
  • Crime-related child death or disappearance leave.

Family Caregiver Leave
Family caregiver leave would allow an employee to take up to 8 weeks of unpaid leave to provide care or support to those who are effectively “family”.  The leave would only be allowed if a health practitioner issues a certificate confirming the family member has a “serious medical condition”.
This is different from the existing Family Medical Leave, which only allows an absence in the event that a qualified health practitioner issues a certificate indicating that death is likely within the next 26 weeks.  It is also distinct from Personal Emergency Leave, which only applies to employers with over 50 employees and even then only provides up to 10 days unpaid leave.

Critically Ill Child Care Leave
The proposal here is for up to 37 unpaid weeks to support a “critically ill child”, defined as someone below 18 years of age whose life is at risk due to illness or injury.  There would be certain restrictions.

Crime-related Child Death or Disappearance Leave
This proposed leave would allow an employee to take up to 104 unpaid weeks of leave if it is probable that the employee’s child’s death was the result of a crime.  The employee would be entitled to up to 52 weeks leave if it is probable that the child’s disappearance was due to a crime.  Again, certain restrictions would apply.

Will More Protected Leaves Go Through the ESA?
The bill in support of these new leaves of absence is in its second reading.  If passed, the ESA would have a total of 10 protected leaves of absence, in addition to the protection for leaves provided by the Ontario Human Rights Code.
We will continue to monitor the development of these possible new leaves and keep you posted!

By Ellen Low, Associate Lawyer at Whitten & Lublin