Leaves of Absence from Work
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Whether subject to provincial or federal law, workers are entitled to various types of leave from work. With a few exceptions, most are unpaid leaves of absence. However, you may qualify for maternity, parental or compassionate leave benefits provided by the Employment Insurance program.
Generally speaking, if you are entitled to a leave, your rate of pay will be protected until you return to work. In most cases, you can still participate in benefit plans and seniority continues to accrue. Laws prohibit discrimination by your employer because you have taken a leave of absence.
All provincial and federal jurisdictions have enacted legislation that makes maternity or pregnancy leave available to employees. In most jurisdictions other than British Columbia, New Brunswick and Quebec you must have worked for your employer for a certain period in order to qualify for this leave. Certain other conditions must be met such as proper notice to your employer of your intention to take leave and notice of your return to work.
In addition to maternity leave or pregnancy leave all Canadian jurisdictions provide parental leave of various lengths. In none of the jurisdictions does the leave go beyond 52 weeks although in some cases it may be possible for the leave to be extended. As with maternity leave you may be required to work for your employer for a certain period of time before you qualify for parental leave. For parents adopting a child some form of adoption leave is also provided in all of the Canadian jurisdictions.
Other forms of leave that may be available to you (some jurisdictions do not provide for all of these) if you meet the eligibility requirements are sick leave, compassionate care leave, bereavement leave, family responsibility leave and reservist leave.
Determining your right to a leave of absence from work can be a difficult task. It requires careful reading of the appropriate section(s) of legislation and corresponding regulations. In addition there are numerous exceptions and exemptions that may need to be considered.
• Alberta Employment Standards Code provides for unpaid maternity/parental leave. To qualify, you must have worked for your employer a minimum of 52 continuous weeks. Pregnant workers who don't meet that minimum might be entitled to leave under human rights law.
• A birth mother's job is protected while she is on one-year (15 weeks maternity / 37 weeks parental) leave.
• Fathers and adoptive parents are entitled to 37 weeks of unpaid leave.
As of February 1, 2014 Alberta Employment Standards provides for Compassionate Care Leave.
• Employment Standards Act permits a pregnant worker 17 consecutive weeks of unpaid leave, which can be extended by six weeks if there are health complications related to the birth or termination of the pregnancy.
• In addition to pregnancy leave, workers in British Columbia are allowed 35 consecutive weeks of unpaid (birth or adoptive) parental leave.
• Workers may take up to five unpaid days leave to attend to family responsibilities such as to care for a sick child.
• The Act allows you up to eight weeks of compassionate leave if you have to care for a gravely ill family member.
• In the event of the death of a member of your immediate family, you are entitled to take three unpaid days of leave.
• If your employment is regulated by the Canada Labour Code, you are entitled to 17 weeks of maternity leave provided you have worked for your employer for six consecutive months. A birth mother is entitled to an additional 37 weeks of parental leave, but the total time away from work cannot exceed 52 weeks.
• The code provides for 37 weeks of parental leave for natural and adoptive parents.
• Your employer cannot insist that you take leave unless they can demonstrate your inability to fulfill the necessary tasks required of your job.
• If you have worked for your employer for three consecutive months, you cannot be dismissed, suspended, demoted or disciplined if you are forced to be absent from work due to illness or injury for up to 17 weeks.
• You are eligible to take eight weeks of compassionate care leave to tend to a gravely ill family member.
• Bereavement leave of three paid days is available if you have worked for your employer for three consecutive months.
• You may also be entitled to leave related to the illness, disappearance or death of your child
• Legislation provides for 17 weeks of maternity leave and 37 weeks of parental leave if you have worked for the same employer for seven consecutive months.
• Workers in Manitoba are entitled to three days of leave for personal illness or to attend to a family matter such as a sick child.
• Compassionate care leave of eight weeks is available to employees who have to care for a family member who is at risk of death in the next 26 weeks.
• In the event a member of your immediate family dies, you are eligible for three unpaid bereavement days.
• To qualify for the above leaves you must have been employed for at least 30 days.
Leave Related to Critical Illness of a Child
This leave is unpaid time off work for up to 37 weeks to allow parents to provide care and support for a critically ill child who is under 18 years old.
Leave Related to the Death or Disappearance of a Child
This leave allows parents to take a leave of absence from work to help deal with the death or disappearance of a child that occurred as a result of a crime under the Criminal Code.
• Regardless of how long they have worked for an employer, women are permitted up to 17 weeks of maternity leave. If they take the full 17 weeks of maternity leave, they are eligible for an additional 35 weeks of child-care leave.
• Natural or adoptive parents in New Brunswick are eligible for up to 37 consecutive weeks of child-care leave.
• Workers are entitled to five days of unpaid bereavement leave.
• Three days leave may be taken in a twelve calendar month period to tend to family matters such as caring for a sick child.
• You are entitled to an unpaid leave of up to eight weeks if you are responsible for the care of a close family member who is severely ill.
• If you have been working for your employer for more than 90 days, you are entitled to unpaid sick leave of five days each calendar year.
Newfoundland and Labrador
• Workers who have been with the same employer for at least 20 consecutive weeks are entitled to 17 weeks of pregnancy / adoption leave and 35 weeks of parental leave. The leave must begin within 35 weeks of the birth or "when the child comes into the employee’s care and custody for the first time."
In Newfoundland and Labrador, the following entitlements require that you must have worked for your employer for a minimum of 30 days:
• Three bereavement days, one of which is paid.
• Family responsibility or sick leave of seven unpaid days a year. If you are absent on sick leave for more than three consecutive days, you must provide your employer with a signed note from a qualified medical practitioner.
• A maximum of eight weeks is permitted for compassionate care of a family member who has a serious illness and is at risk of dying within 26 weeks.
In addition to the usual types of leaves, Nova Scotia's Labour Standards Code allows absences from work for reservists and those workers called for jury duty.
• To qualify for pregnancy leave of 17 weeks or natural/adoptive parental leave (52 weeks), you must have been with the same employer for at least one year. Pregnancy and parental leave must be taken consecutively and, combined, cannot exceed 52 weeks.
• Workers are entitled to three days of unpaid bereavement leave.
• Your employer must allow you to take three unpaid sick days a year, which can be used for such things as medical appointments or to care for a sick child.
• You can take compassionate care leave of eight weeks to look after seriously ill family members at high risk of dying within 26 weeks.
There are also provisions for Crime Related Child Death or Disappearance Leave and Critically Ill Child Care Leave.
• In order to qualify for pregnancy or parental leave, Ontario's Employment Standards Act stipulates that you must have worked for the same employer for a minimum of 13 weeks prior to either your due date or the day the leave commences.
• Parental leave is a maximum of 37 weeks, but 35 if you took pregnancy leave. Once started, the leave must be taken all at the same time.
• Personal emergency leave of 10 days in a calendar year is available to anyone who works for an employer who has at least 50 employees. Included reasons are urgent family matters, illness, medical emergency or death of a close relative.
• Part- and full-time employees are entitled to a leave of eight weeks to care for a seriously ill family member who is at risk of dying within the next 26 weeks.
On October 29, 2014, new rules surrounding a new family caregiver leave will come into effect. Employees will be entitled to an unpaid, job-protected leave of absence of up to eight weeks to care for a family member with a serious medical condition. Unpaid job-protected leaves for parents caring for a critically ill child (of up to 37 weeks) or coping with the tragedy of a crime-related death (up to 104 weeks) or disappearance of a child (up to 52 weeks) will also come into force.
Prince Edward Island
• People who have worked for 20 continuous weeks at the same place are eligible for maternity (17 weeks) and parental (35 weeks) leave. If you take both maternity and parental leave, they must be taken consecutively and cannot exceed 52 weeks.
• Workers in Prince Edward Island who have been with the same employer for six months are eligible within a calendar year for three unpaid sick days and three days family leave to attend to family responsibilities.
• The province's Employment Standards Act permits workers to take up to three days bereavement leave in the event of the death of an immediate family member and one day if it is a member of the extended family.
• Compassionate care leave of up to eight weeks is available to employees in situations where an immediate family member is at risk of death within 26 weeks.
• Quebec has its own insurance plan to provide financial benefits to employees on maternity and parental leave. Pregnant employees are allowed to take 18 weeks of maternity leave without pay. Paternity leave of 5 weeks is available, but must begin no earlier than the week the child was born and finish no more than 52 weeks later. Parental leave of a maximum 52 weeks is in addition to any maternity or paternity leave that was taken.
• The death of an immediate family entitles a worker to five days of bereavement leave, one of which is paid.
• Leave of 10 days a year for such things as care or medical attention of a family member is permitted under Quebec legislation.
• Provided you have a minimum three months of service with your employer, you are entitled to a leave of up to 12 weeks a year to meet obligations resulting from an accident or serious illness of a family member. If you are sick or recovering from an accident, you may take up to 26 weeks leave in a 12-month period.
• Provided you have worked at least 13 weeks for the same employer, you are entitled to an 18-week maternity or adoption leave if you are the main caregiver. In addition, you can have 34 weeks of parental leave, but it must be taken immediately following the maternity leave.
• A parent of a newborn who does not take maternity leave will be eligible for 37 weeks of parental leave.
• Under Saskatchewan's Employment Act, if you have worked for your employer for a minimum of 13 weeks, you are entitled to an unpaid leave of absence due to illness or injury. If it is serious, you are permitted 12 weeks in a period of 52 weeks. If the illness or injury is not regarded as serious, you may be entitled to a leave, but not for more than 12 days in any 52-week period.
• If you need to care for an ill or dying family member, you are entitled to take leave from work without being disciplined or fired. For example, if you qualify for compassionate care benefits under the Employment Insurance Act, you can take a leave that does not exceed 16 weeks in any 52-week period. If the illness or injury is not serious, you may be entitled to a leave of no more than 12 days in a calendar year to attend to the needs of an ill or injured family member.
• If you have a death in your immediate family, and you have worked for your employer for at least three months, you will be entitled to take five days of bereavement leave.
Crime-related child death or disappearance leave is unpaid, job-protected leave of up to 104 weeks.