Let's Talk About Leaves

Part III. Health Related Leaves (Ontario)

Apart from mandatory sick days that are likely coming soon to Ontario, other health-related leaves are available, mostly to allow employees to care for immediate family members.

Below we highlight these health related leaves, and the changes that are likely coming soon to Ontario.


Family Medical Leave

The Family Medical Leave is intended to allow employees to care for loved ones, and not be penalized for it.


Currently in Ontario, Family Medical Leave works like this:

  • it is available to all employees;
  • up to 8 weeks in a 26-week period;
  • all unpaid;
  • where there is a significant risk of death for essentially the employee's
    • spouse;
    • parent; or
    • child;
  • that will occur in the next 26 weeks; AND
  • the employee have to provide medical documentation to prove it.

The family members listed above include step and foster parent-child relationships.

Like personal emergency leave, changes are being proposed, largely regarding the length of the leave. This is to address the realities that a risk of death may be "significant" even if the risk is anticipated to happen later than 26 weeks.


If the proposed changes go through, the new Family Medical Leave would essentially work the same way, except:

  • the employee may take up to 27 weeks in a 52 week period; and
  • the risk of death may occur in the next 52 weeks.

This means, the employee will be able to take more time off over a longer period of time for family medical reasons, without adverse change to their employment circumstances.


Family Caregiver Leave

Like Family Medical Leave, the Family Caregiver Leave is not for the employee's personal medical issues, but is intended for an employee to care for health related issues relating to a family member.

Family Caregiver Leave works like this:

  • it is available to all employees;
  • up to 8 weeks in a year;
  • all unpaid;
  • where there is a serious medical condition for essentially the employee's
    • spouse;
    • parent;
    • child;
    • grandparent;
    • child's spouse;
    • sibling; or
    • dependent; AND
  • the employee have to provide medical documentation to prove it.

So far, we are unaware of changes coming to Ontario on this leave.


Critically Ill Child Care Leave

The Critically Ill Child Care Leave is intended to allow employees to care for their children without fear of penalty at the workplace. It works like this:

  • it is available only to those who have been employed continuously for 6 months;
  • in respect of a child who is critically ill;
  • critically ill meaning: baseline state of health significantly changed, and life is at risk as a result of an illness or injury;
  • up to 37 weeks in a 52-week period;
  • all unpaid; AND
  • the employee have to provide medical documentation to prove it.

So far, we are unaware of changes coming to Ontario on this leave.


Forward Looking: Family vs. Work

Earlier, we blogged about Family vs. Work (part of our Human Rights Series), zooming in on the increased ability and expectation of an Ontario employee to care for their parent or child without penalty from the boss.

The proposed changes to the Family Medical Leave now underscore this reality: more and more employees simply have to take time to care for their aging elderly parent, and these employees need time from work to do this.

If this change goes through, the 3 mandatory leaves of absence (family medical, family caregiver, and critically ill child) can work in conjunction and alongside one another with the Ontario Human Rights Code to bolster the employee's workplace rights.

For the employee, having more rights may signal progressive change, but these rights have to be exercised responsibly. Take the time to understand what the basic elements are, the limitations, and the employee's corresponding obligations.

For the employer, ensure your workplace is up to date with evolving and changing legal landscapes. Take the time to review and revisit existing policies and contracts. Spend energy on rolling out workplace training and educating all players involved.


Either way, it is always prudent to speak with your employment lawyer, to fully appreciate the do's and don'ts. It is always worth spending a little bit of time and money at the front end, than to spend a lot more time and money when things go wrong.


Links:

Let's Talk About LEAVES - Part I. Maternity and Parental

Let's Talk About LEAVES - Part II. Sick Days (Ontario)