Canadian HR Reporter

February 20, 2017

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 February 20, 2017 NEWS 3 Pilot project alters emergency leave New rules come after employer feedback to Ontario government's workplace review BY SARAH DOBSON BACK in 2001, Ontario intro- duced a Personal Emergency Leave as part of its Employ- ment Standards Act. e change meant employees at workplaces with 50 or more workers could take up to 10 days of unpaid leave due to personal illness, injury or medical emergency, or a death, illness, medical emergency or urgent matter related to family members. While meant to provide sup- port and protection for employ- ees, the leave proved a challenge for employers trying to balance workers' rights with business needs, and in figuring out how the leave worked with benefits such as paid sick days offered by employers. If an employer agreement (in- cluding a collective agreement) provided a greater right or ben- efit than the personal emergency leave standard, the terms of the contract applied instead. So, recently, a change was made — which, for now, only applies to the automobile manufacturing, parts warehousing or automo- bile marshalling sector, though it could eventually extend to other industries. e new version sees the 10- day leave entitlement separated into two parts, one for employees' personal emergencies and one for bereavement. Employees in those sectors are now entitled to up to seven days of unpaid, job-protected per- sonal emergency leave per year for a personal illness, injury or medical emergency, or the illness, injury, medical emergency or ur- gent matter of a family member. So personal emergency leaves cannot be taken for the death of a family member. However, workers are now enti- tled to up to three days of unpaid, job-protected personal emer- gency leave per year per death of a family member, with no yearly limit. Overall, the pilot project is a positive change, according to Ian Howcroft, vice-president of the Ontario division of Cana- dian Manufacturers & Exporters (CME) in Toronto. "We've been raising some is- sues and concerns about all the leaves that Ontario offers, partic- ularly personal emergency leave. It was hard to manage; it was hav- ing a negative impact and causing many challenges in doing busi- ness, keeping production lines going in many instances. So this is a step to try and address that. It didn't give everybody everything but it was focusing, I think, on a sector where the challenges were most significant and does alleviate some of those pressures." Changes follow feedback e pilot project, which took ef- fect on Jan. 1, was made as part of the province's Changing Work- places Review which is looking at amendments to Ontario's Labour Relations Act and Employment Standards Act. "Stakeholders recommended that instead of having this blan- ket category, that they separate out the individual leaves that are supposed to be encapsulated in the broader leave," said Stefanie Di Francesco, an associate in the employment and labour relations group at law firm McMillan in Toronto. "Bereavement leave is now re- lated to death only, and then the personal emergency leave com- ponent is now only related to per- sonal illness or illness of one of the listed family members." The change potentially pro- vides employees with a greater benefit, she said. "It may result in employees re- ceiving more time off, at least with respect to bereavement leave." For example, if an employer provides five paid days of bereave- ment leave per year, it's now more clear that if an employee needs more than those five days, he is entitled to three days per death per year — so an unlimited num- ber, said Di Francesco. e new change does bifurcate or recognize leave for bereave- ment as separate from the other ones, said Howcroft, "so it does allow more accuracy in the op- eration and implementation of the leaves." Employers already generous A lot of employers already offered generous leaves, so that was one of the concerns, he said. "If someone's already giving three days of bereavement leave, you don't want to then have to give more. I know they tried to design the legislation to avoid that, and when they put it all in as 10, it does wash over at times, so this is a step that will hope- fully deal with addressing some LEAVES > pg. 10 Workers entitled to 3 days of unpaid leave per death per year.

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