On October 29, 2014, three new job-protected leaves come into force under the Ontario Employment Standards Act.
- Family caregiver leave: up to eight weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave for employees to provide care or support to a family member with a serious medical condition.
- Critically ill child care leave: up to 37 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave to provide care to a critically ill child.
- Crime-related child death or disappearance leave: up to 52 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave for parents of a missing child and up to 104 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave for parents of a child who has died as a result of a crime.
A doctor’s note would be required to qualify for family caregiver leave and critically ill child care leave. Employees entitled to take critically ill child care leave may also qualify for Employment Insurance (EI) special benefits for parents of critically ill children. However, the EI benefits do not perfectly mirror the leave entitlements under the Act. There are different eligibility criteria (including a minimum number of qualifying insurable hours), and if the employee chooses not to take the leave in full weeks, he or she may not qualify for EI benefits depending on his or her income.
Employees who are entitled to take the crime-related child death or disappearance leave may be entitled to a Federal Income Support for Parents of Murdered or Missing Children grant from the federal government. Ontario is calling on its federal government to extend EI compassionate care benefits to those who take advantage of Family Caregiver Leave, just as they do when Ontarians take family medical leave. This will be clarified further at a later date. To clarify, family medical leave (compassionate care) is an existing unpaid, job-protected leave to provide care or support to certain individuals who have a serious medical condition with a significant risk of death occurring within a period of 26 weeks. An employee can take up to eight weeks of family medical leave in a 26-week period.
A change to family medical leave will also occur on October 29, 2014. As of October 29, 2014, if an employee who takes family medical leave during a week stops providing care or support before the end of that week (i.e. before Saturday), the employee will be entitled to remain on leave until the end of the week, and, is allowed to return to work before the end of the week only if the employer agrees. “Week” is defined as running from Sunday to Saturday.
The Ontario Ministry of Labour has created a form that employees may wish to provide to a qualified health practitioner to fill out, in order to support their eligibility to take family caregiver leave, family medical leave, and/or critically ill child care leave. The form can be found here (PDF).
An employee may be entitled to more than one leave for the same event. Each leave is separate and the right to each leave is independent of any right an employee may have to the other leave(s).