COVID-19

Federal Government Amends Federal Leave Provisions and Criminal Code: Bill C-3

Bill C-3, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Canada Labour Code, received Royal Assent as of December 17, 2021. As outlined below, the Bill provides up to ten days of paid sick leave to all federally regulated private sector employees under the Canada Labour Code, and enhanced protections for health care workers under the Criminal Code. The legislation also amends bereavement leave under the Canada Labour Code.

As announced, the reforms introduced by Bill C-3 are intended to provide support for workers in the federally regulated industries and healthcare sector who continue to be impacted by COVID-19. 

Amendments to the Canada Labour Code

The following amendments to the Canada Labour Code will come into effect on a day to be fixed by order of the Governor in Council, in order to allow time for employers to implement payroll changes and work with unions, as needed, to adjust collective agreements.

(a) Paid Sick Leave

Bill C-3 will repeal s.206.6(1)(a) of the Canada Labour Code, which currently entitles workers to a leave of absence from employment of up to 5 days per year to treat an illness or injury.

The Canada Labour Code will also be amended to provide employees with an entitlement of up to 10 days of paid sick leave per year, as follows:

  • After completing 30 days of continuous employment with the employer, the employee will earn 3 days of paid sick leave;
  • After 60 days of continuous employment with the employer, the employee will earn 1 day of paid sick leave, at the beginning of each month;
  • Maximum of 10 paid sick days per calendar year;
  • After the end of the first calendar year, at the beginning of each month, after one month of continuous employment, an employee is entitled to one day of paid sick leave, up to a maximum of 10 days; and
  • Accrued but unused days can be carried over to the following year, but the maximum entitlement for the subsequent calendar is reduced accordingly, so in no year does the employee’s entitlement exceed 10 days.

For each day of sick leave taken, a worker must be paid at their regular rate of wages for their normal hours of work.

In addition to providing enhanced benefits for employees, the new sick leave provisions provide important guidance for employers. While the paid sick leave can be taken in one or more periods, an employer may require that each period of leave not be less than 1 day. As well, if an employee has taken at least 5 consecutive days of paid sick leave, an employer can, in writing and no later than 15 days after the employee returns to work, require that the employee provide a certificate issued by a health care practitioner certifying that the worker was incapable of working for the period of their paid sick leave. An employer may also request the same certificate from an employee who takes at least three days of unpaid sick leave.

The Government of Canada has stated that it intends to engage with federally regulated employers, including small and medium-sized enterprises, towards the implementation of paid sick leave in Canada.  The Canadian Government has also stated that it will convene with the provinces and territories in early 2022 to develop a national action plan to legislate paid sick leave for all workers across the country, while respecting provincial-territorial jurisdiction and clearly recognizing the unique needs of small business owners.

(b) Bereavement Leave

Under Bill C-3, the existing s. 210(1) of the Canada Labour Code will be replaced. Under the new leave provisions, in the event of the death of a member of their immediate family or a family member, an employee will be entitled to a leave of absence from their employment for up to 10 days. This leave may be taken during the period that begins on the day on which the death occurs and ends six weeks after the latest of the days on which any funeral, burial or memorial service of that deceased person occurs.

In the event of the death of a child of the employee or the death of a child of their spouse or common-law partner, an employee is entitled to a leave of absence from their employment for up to 8 weeks. In the event of a stillbirth experienced by the employee or their spouse or common-law partner or where they would have been a parent, an employee is also entitled to a leave of absence for up to 8 weeks. These leaves may be taken during the period that begins on the day on which the death or stillbirth occurs and ends 12 weeks after the latest of the days on which any funeral, burial or memorial service of the child or in respect of the stillbirth occurs.

Amendments to the Criminal Code

Bill C-3 amends the Criminal Code to create a new intimidation offence targeting those who use fear to impede health care workers and access to healthcare. These amendments will come into force 30 days after Royal Assent, which was given on December 17, 2021.  

Once in effect, the amendments will make it an offence to engage in any conduct with the intent to provoke a state of fear in: a person in order to impede them from obtaining health services, a health professional in order to impede them in the performance of their duties, or a person who assists a health professional in order to impede the person in providing that assistance.

A specific offence will also be created to prohibit the intentional obstruction or interference with another person’s lawful access to a place at which health services are provided by a health professional, except where the person is attending at the place for the purpose only of obtaining or communicating information.

A person who commits one of these offences would be guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for up to 10 years, or of an offence punishable on summary conviction. As well, the commission of an offence against a person who was providing health services and the commission of an offence that had the effect of impeding another person from obtaining health services will be considered as aggravating sentencing factors for any offence.

If you have any questions about this topic, other COVID-19 related questions, or any questions relating to workplace law generally, please do not hesitate to contact a Mathews Dinsdale lawyer or refer to the Firm’s other COVID-19 website resources.

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