Canadian HR Reporter

October 20, 2014

Canadian HR Reporter is the national journal of human resource management. It features the latest workplace news, HR best practices, employment law commentary and tools and tips for employers to get the most out of their workforce.

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CanaDian hr reporter october 20, 2014 INsIgHT 15 Claudine kapel Guest Commentary Employer obligations for maternity leave Question: what is an employer legally required to provide to employees who are on maternity leave, such as vacation accrual, benefits or sick leave? Answer: e legal obligations an employer owes to an employee who is on pregnancy or parental leave are determined by the appli- cable employment standards and human rights legislation, as well as the contract of employment or collective agreement. Employment standards legisla- tion in all Canadian jurisdictions provides employees on pregnan- cy or parental leave with certain protections. In Ontario, for example, s. 51 of the Employment Standards Act, 2000, requires an employer to continue benefits for employees on pregnancy or parental leave, unless the employee elects in writ- ing to cease participating. The benefits that must be continued include pension, life insurance, accidental death and dismemberment, extended health, dental and any other pre- scribed benefits that are related to employment. e employer must continue to pay its share of the benefit pre- miums, unless the employee gives written notice that the employee doesn't intend to pay the employ- ee's share. Employees on pregnancy or parental leave are also entitled to continue to earn credits toward length of employment, length of service and seniority during their leave, and to continue to accrue service for the purpose of calcu- lating vacation entitlement. In British Columbia, section 54(2) of the Employment Stan- dards Act prohibits an employer from changing conditions of em- ployment of an employee who takes pregnancy or parental leave without the employee's consent, and section 56(1) deems the em- ployee's service to be continuous when calculating vacation and severance entitlements, and for the purposes of any pension, medical or other plan beneficial to the employee. Section 56(2) requires an em- ployer to continue to pay its nor- mal share of the benefit and pen- sion plan premiums for an em- ployee on pregnancy or parental leave, unless the employee fails to pay her normal share. Section 56(3) of the B.C. act also specifies that employees are entitled to all increases in wages and benefits that the employee would have been entitled to had the pregnancy or parental leave not been taken. In BCTF v. British Columbia Public School Employers' Assn., the B.C. Court of Appeal ruled that teachers on pregnancy and parental leaves were entitled to be credited with experience for sal- ary increment purposes while on leave as if they had been teaching during such periods. Human rights legislation pro- hibits discrimination in employ- ment on the basis of a number of prohibited grounds, including sex and disability. Accordingly, if an employer provides its employees with ben- efit packages, it must do so in a non-discriminatory way. For example, in Renfrew County and District Health Unit v. Ontar- io Nurses' Assn. (Robertson Griev- ance), an arbitrator determined that a refusal by an employer to provide a nurse with pregnancy supplement wages constituted discrimination. In that case, the employee was required by her doctor to go on bed rest 18 weeks into her preg- nancy. e employee took unpaid sick leave for the next 20 weeks, until the official commencement of her pregnancy leave. Under the terms of the collec- tive agreement, employees were entitled to supplementary preg- nancy leave pay based on their average income in the 20 weeks immediately preceding the start of the pregnancy leave. On the basis that the employee did not receive pay during those 20 weeks, the employer denied this supple- mentary pay. e arbitrator ruled that com- plications from the employ- ee's pregnancy had prevented her from working, and that it was discriminatory not to pro- vide her with the pregnancy leave top-up pay. The applicable employment contract or collective agreement may also require an employer to provide additional benefits to em- ployees who are on pregnancy or parental leave. An example would be a wage top-up, to supplement employ- ment insurance benefits. The law permits the parties to enter into such agreements, so long as the contractual provision meets or exceeds any minimum en- titlements under the applicable legislation. As a result, employers should be sure to carefully check the ap- plicable legislative and contractu- al requirements to determine the nature and level of benefits that must be provided to employees on pregnancy or parental leave. For more information see: • BCTF v. British Columbia Public School Employers' Assn., 2013 CarswellBC 981 (B.C. C.A.). • Renfrew County and District Health Unit v. Ontario Nurses' Assn. (Robertson Grievance), [2013] O.L.A.A. No. 311 (Slot- nick). Colin G.M. Gibson is a partner at Har- ris and Company in Vancouver. He can be reached at (604) 891-2212 or for some managers, providing acknowledgement is as challenging as tackling performance issues. Colin gibson toughest hr Question Lack of acknowledgement eroding job satisfaction Compensation elements top list of desired types of recognition: Study Employees just aren't feeling the love. at's the essential finding of a study by the Ameri- can psychological Association (ApA) on em- ployee recognition. Only one-half of respondents (51 per cent) said they feel valued by their employer, with more than one-third (36 per cent) indicating they hadn't received any form of recognition in the last year. e survey polled 882 adults in the United States employed either full-time or part-time. Less than one-third of respon- dents (31 per cent) said they re- ceive appreciation — verbal or written — from their direct su- pervisor. Further, only 51 per cent reported being satisfied with their employer's employee recognition practices, while only 47 per cent felt recognition is provided fairly in their organization. Overall, 60 per cent indicated they value the recognition they receive. Although the majority of re- spondents (81 per cent) report- ed that their employer provides some type of recognition, less than one-half (46 per cent) said their organization recognizes employees for individual job performance. Organizations missing out It's probably not news that orga- nizations often fall short when it comes to recognition. But the value of delivering recognition should be highlighted because of the potential benefits to the orga- nization and employees alike. e APA observes employees who indicated that their organi- zation's recognition practices are fair, that direct supervisors pro- vide recognition effectively, and that they value the recognition they receive also reported other positive outcomes. ese included: •higher levels of job satisfaction •a greater likelihood to work harder because of the recogni- tion they receive •stronger motivation to do their best •a greater sense of feeling valued. In contrast, respondents who said they planned to stay with their current employer for less than one year (13 per cent) also felt less valued, had lower perceptions of fairness regarding their organization's recognition practices and experienced lower overall job satisfaction. Money most desired When it comes to the ways em- ployees want to be recognized, money tops the list. e types of recognition iden- tified as most important include: •merit-based salary increases (62 per cent) •fair monetary compensation (47 per cent) •performance-based bonuses (43 per cent) •promotions or advancement (38 per cent) •verbal or written appreciation from supervisor (28 per cent). It's not surprising the respon- dents honed in on the compen- sation-related choices covered by the survey. Pay increases, bonuses and opportunities for advancement are all foundational elements of a strong employment relation- ship. e high ranking of merit increases could potentially reflect employee discontent with the modest pay increases organiza- tions have been delivering in re- cent years. e more traditional recogni- tion fare scored a little lower, with respondents showing a preference for recognition that included an element of choice. Gift cards or gift certificates (27 per cent) and travel awards or paid vacations (19 per cent) scored higher in terms of value than organization logo merchan- dise (nine per cent) and other tan- gible items or merchandise (nine per cent). Two other low-scoring items were public displays of perfor- mance or accomplishments (nine per cent) and being highlighted in print or electronic communi- cations (eight per cent). Tips for employers e research findings serve as a reminder that organizations need to think about recognition both strategically and holistically. First and foremost, recogni- tion is a facet of the relationship between those in people manage- ment roles and their direct reports. To that end, organizations need to build managerial capability in the arena of providing acknowl- edgement — which for some managers is as challenging as tackling performance issues. In addition, organizations need a big picture perspective regard- ing how they recognize and re- ward talent. While gift cards and other types of cash and non-cash recognition can deliver value, that value will only be optimized if such practices are managed as part of a broad compensation or total rewards strategy. Non-cash recognition will be less effective — and potentially even insulting — if employees have broader concerns that their overall pay isn't being managed fairly or isn't market-competitive. In essence, employees are say- ing: "Let me feel the love. But don't forget to show me the money." Claudine Kapel is principal of Kapel and Associates, a Toronto-based hu- man resources and communications consulting firm specializing in the de- sign and implementation of compen- sation and total rewards programs. She can be reached at claudine@ Human rights legislation prohibits discrimination in employment on the basis of a number of prohibited grounds, including sex and disability.

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