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Potential Changes to Unpaid Leave Periods in British Columbia

April 10, 2018

Potential Changes to Unpaid Leave Periods in British Columbia

On April 9, 2018, B.C.’s Minister of Labour introduced amendments to the Employment Standards Act.  The proposed amendments, if passed by the legislature, would establish a variety of new circumstances in which employees in British Columbia would be entitled to unpaid leaves of absence and would also expand some existing leave periods already available to employees.
The proposed amendments would impact the following existing leave periods:
Pregnancy (Maternity) Leave:  Pregnant workers will be able to begin unpaid job protected pregnancy leave 13 weeks before their expected due date (currently 11 weeks).  The total pregnancy leave period of 17 weeks will not change.
Parental Leave:  Parental leave will be extended to align with the recently extended Federal EI parental benefit. The proposed leave period would:

  • allow birth mothers to begin up to 61 consecutive weeks of parental leave immediately after the end of the 17 week pregnancy leave, providing a total leave period of 78 weeks. This is considerably longer than the current leave available to birth mothers, which provides a maximum protected leave period of 52 weeks to birth mothers (inclusive of pregnancy leave); and
  • allow partners, non-birth parents or adopting parents to take up to 62 consecutive weeks of parental leave within 18 months of a child’s birth or adoption (currently 37 weeks).

Compassionate Care Leave:  Will be increased to a 27 week leave period (currently 8 weeks).
The proposed amendments would also create the following new periods of unpaid job protected leave:
Child death leave:  In the event of the death of a child (under the age of 19), parents would be entitled to two years of job protected leave.
Crime-related child disappearance leave:  In the event a child disappears as a result of crime, parents would be entitled to unpaid leave of up to 52 weeks.
Employers should consider how these changes may impact their business.  In particular, for those employers whom offer “top-up” benefits to employees on maternity/parental leave, those arrangements may need to be reviewed in light of the proposed (and considerably lengthier) maternity/parental leave periods.
If you have questions regarding the impact of these changes, or steps you can take to reduce their impact, please do not hesitate to contract a Mathews Dinsdale lawyer in our British Columbia office.

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