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Family Caregivers Bill-21 Passes Second Reading in Ontario Legislature

On September 25, 2013, Bill-21 passed second reading in the Ontario Legislature.  The Bill, known as An Act to amend the Employment Standards Act, 2000 in respect of family caregiver, critically ill child care and crime-related child death or disappearance leaves of absence is intended to amend Ontario’s Employment Standards Act, 2000 by providing additional job-protected leaves of absence to accommodate employees with family caregiver responsibilities.

Currently, the Employment Standards Act provides the right to Family Medical Leave, which is a job-protected leave of absence without pay for up to eight weeks, for any employee to provide care or support to a defined family member, for whom a qualified doctor has diagnosed a serious medical condition with a significant risk of death within 26 weeks or less.  Family Medical Leave entitlement is in addition to the job protected leave an employee may take under the Personal Emergency Leave provisions of the Act, which provide for leave of up to ten days in a calendar year in workplaces with 50 or more employees.

If Bill 21 is passed into law, the Employment Standards Act will be amended to provide:

Family Caregiver Leave: Employees will be entitled to take up to eight weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave, in each calendar year, to provide care and support to a defined member with a serious medical condition diagnosed by a qualified health practitioner.  The entitlement will be up to eight weeks’ duration for each defined family member with a serious medical condition.

Critically Ill Child Care Leave:  Employees who have been employed for at least six consecutive months will be entitled to take unpaid, job-protected leave, to provide care or support for a critically ill child, as defined in the Employment Insurance Act, upon issuance of a certificate by a qualified health practitioner stating that the child is critically ill.  The leave will last as long as the time required for the child’s care as stated in the certificate, up to a maximum of 37 weeks, and will not replicate for multiple, critically ill children.

Crime-Related Child Death and Disappearance Leave:  Employees who have been employed for at least six consecutive months will be entitled to up to 104 weeks of unpaid, job protected leave if their child, under 18 years of age, dies, and the likely cause of death is related to the commission of a crime.  Employees who have been employed for at least six consecutive months will also be entitled to up to 52 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave if their child, under 18 years of age, goes missing, and the likely cause of their disappearance is related to the commission of a crime.  However, the employee will have neither entitlement if the employee is charged with the crime, or the child is a probable party to the crime.

The Bill is now referred to the Standing Committee on General Government and public hearings are expected to take place during the week of December 4, 2013.

If the Bill passes to law, employers in Ontario will have to become familiar with new rights to job-protected leaves of absence for their employees, and will have to be prepared to make arrangements to effectively conduct their business in the, possibly lengthy, absence of certain employees.  Employers should also start reviewing their current sick leave/leave of absence policies to ensure they will not be providing employees with duplicative leave entitlements, or inadvertently provide additional leave in addition to the statutory provisions, in the event that the bill is passed into law.

The lawyers at CCPartners are experienced in helping employers understand their legal obligations under the Employment Standards Act, and assisting clients to understand their options when faced with the absence of an employee.

Please Note: This blog has been prepared as an informational service for our clients and other interested parties. It is not intended to constitute legal advice, a complete statement of the law or opinion on any subject. Although we endeavour to ensure the accuracy of the content, no one should act upon the information provided without a thorough examination of the law after the facts of a specific situation are fully considered.



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