Ontario’s Bill 148 “Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, 2017″ was introduced on June 1, 2017 and it is assumed that with the Liberal majority, it will pass into law in the fall. The bill proposes a few changes to leave entitlements in Ontario which are a step in the right direction but which in my opinion still contain an inexplicable flaw, common in most provinces.
The positive change is that Bill 148 extends eligibility for leave in the event of a death of a child to all employees, not just employees whose child dies as the result of a crime. Leave of up to 104 weeks will be available to employees who are parents, foster parents or guardians of a child who dies. The flaw is that the leave only applies to children under the age of 18.
Currently, most provinces provide up to 104 weeks of leave in the event of child’s death resulting from a crime (with BC being the exception with no such leave provisions to date). Like Ontario, most provinces with such leave provisions only provide such leave to parents of children under 18. Quebec provides the leave for the crime-related death of all children and provides additional leave of up to 52 weeks in the event of a child’s suicide with no age restriction.
Similarly, most provinces provide employees with an extended leave up to 36 or 37 weeks to care for a child with a critical illness (again, except for BC, which has not yet implemented any such leave). Again, most provinces provide such leave only for children under the age of 18. Quebec provides up to 104 weeks of leave for a seriously or mortally ill or injured minor child.
Leave entitlements for parents for the death or illness of children over the age of 18 are significantly less and would be covered in most provinces by Compassionate Care Leave, being 27 or 28 weeks in most provinces, excepting BC and PEI which each provide for 8 weeks. Ontario fares better with 27 weeks of Family Medical Leave with an additional 8 weeks Family Caregiver Leave. Quebec provides for 12 weeks of leave over 12 months for a serious illness or accident of certain family members, including children.
In cases of death the difference is even more extreme, as the death of children over 18 in most provinces would fall under general bereavement leave provisions which are 3 days in Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, 5 days in Saskatchewan and Quebec, and under Bill 148 in Ontario, up to 10 personal emergency days which may be used in the event of a death (if the employee has not already used his or her personal leave days).
I am a parent of a 20 year old daughter. I can’t imagine that because she is over 18 that I would grieve her death any less than if she were under 18 or that I would be less obligated or willing to care for her if she had a critical illness or injury. I also can’t imagine that the death of a child under 18 as a result of a crime is more deserving of an extended bereavement leave than any other death of a child. Absurdly, even with the expanded Child Death Leave in Ontario, a parent would be entitled to 104 weeks of leave if the child was under the age of 18, but only the balance of any unused personal emergency days (up to 10) the day the child turns 18.
So despite some progress in this regard in Ontario’s Bill 148, it also serves to highlight that legislation is often a blunt instrument with arbitrary limits which rarely address human relationships and realities as they are, leaving me, again, reminding all employers and employees that, regardless of legislation, we need to treat each other compassionately and fairly.
More information and sample policies about Compassionate Care Leave, Critically Ill Child Care Leave, Crime-Related Death and Disappearance Leave and Bereavement Leave are available in the Human Resources PolicyPro.