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Politics over pragmatism? Job-protected leaves for the death and disappearance of child due to crime or a critically ill child

Image: www.markstrahl.com

On December 14, 2012, the federal Helping Families in Need Act (formerly Bill C–44) received Royal Assent and provisions were proclaimed in effect on March 24, 2013 and June 9, 2013. That Act among other things, amended the Canada Labour Codeto permit an employee to take a job-protected leave of absence without pay if the employee is the parent of a child who has disappeared or died and it is probable, considering the circumstances, that the child disappeared or died as a result of a crime.

As with all provincially-regulated employers, even though income supports for such leaves are provided by federal legislation, the actual leave provisions are provided by provincial employment and labour standards legislation. At this time, Quebec, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Yukon Territory, Nova Scotia and Ontario have either passed or tabled legislation providing for such leave of absence in response to the federal legislation.

Although every one of us has had and would have great empathy for any parent whose child disappears or dies as a probable result of a crime, the facts are that the incidence of such is so low in Canada, that it makes one wonder if such legislation was really necessary. Most child disappearances are the result of runaways, which would not qualify for the leave/income support. For those that are abducted, an RCMP report from 2009 show that the majority of child kidnappings are by parents or by relatives or friends of the family, and only a handful per year are actual “stranger” kidnappings. The statistics are similar for homicides involving children. StatsCan crime statistics show that in 2011 of 598 total national homicides, 56 were young people between the ages of 0 – 17, and most homicides of youth are perpetrated by family members.

In all jurisdictions which have tabled or passed legislation, employees would not be eligible for the leave if they are charged in relation with the crime. The Federal, Ontario and Saskatchewan provisions provide no leave or benefit if the youth is a party to the crime. In addition, all jurisdictions with tabled or passed provisions have provided for service requirements ranging from 30 days in Manitoba to 12 months in Yukon Territory. So, the statistics and eligibility requirements for leave and income supports for child disappearance and death resulting from crime, will be rarely used.

The Act also enacted provisions to provide leave and EI benefits to parents of critically ill or injured children. Government reports state that this program is expected to assist 6,000 Canadians which is small compared to other EI programs, but still significant when compared to the number who may benefit from the program for crime-related death or disappearance leave. In addition, the income supports for critically ill or injured children is administered by the EI system, which is already in place. The income support program for crime-related death and disappearance leave will require a new infrastructure and bureaucracy to administer it for a handful of Canadians who may be eligible for it each year.

Again, while I don’t wish such a situation on anyone, and sympathize with anyone suffering such a loss, I trust that any parent in such a situation would be treated fairly by his or her employer under its personal leave policies without the need for the resources expended both federally and provincially on a program which will benefit almost no one.

Since the federal provisions have been passed however, employers should respond with their own policies to comply with existing and upcoming provisions related to the matter discussed in this article. Refer to more compliance information and sample policies in First Reference’s Human Resources PolicyPro® tailored to each Canadian jurisdiction (Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba & Saskatchewan, Ontario, Atlantic and Quebec Editions).

Michele Glassford
Editor of Human Resources PolicyPro
published by First Reference Inc

Michele Glassford

President and Managing Editor at DRH and Lawyer at MacKinnon Law Associates
Michele Glassford, is a lawyer, researcher and policy analyst with a background in employment and labour law.In addition to a part-time law practice in Stoney Creek, Ontario, Michele has worked in the field of labour adjustment for the Health Sector Training and Adjustment Program and has been a Researcher for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Michele also holds the position of President and Managing Editor at D.R. Hancocks & Associates Inc., author of the Human Resources PolicyPros. Read more
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