Catching Up to Employment Law Changes in BC

Shawnee Love   •   June 14, 2018

BC’s government has passed legislation which dramatically affects BC employers- particularly small businesses who have the least resources available to handle these changes.

Saying that, the changes are welcome to BC employees who appreciate the extended leaves now being offered.  If you are a BC employer, here’s what you need to know about the changes:

Pregnancy Leave

  • An employee who requests this leave may start up to 13 weeks prior to the estimated birth date (up from 11 weeks)
  • The leave is still up to 17 weeks long (although there are some additional details regarding extensions and leave length if the pregnancy is terminated)

Parental Leave

  • The birth mom who requests this leave may take up to 61 weeks of parental leave (up from 35 weeks)
  • The parent who doesn’t take pregnancy leave is eligible to take up to 62 weeks of parental leave (up from 37 weeks) and it must begin within 78 weeks of the birth or adoption of the child/ children
  • An extension of 5 weeks is available for a parent when the child has a medical condition

Pregnancy Leave and Parental Leave taken together for the birth mom is typically called Maternity Leave and all together that is now 78 weeks (i.e., 18 months) instead of the 12 months previously offered.

Despite being only recently approved, these changes are back-dated to December 3, 2017 which means employees whose leave started on December 3, 2017 and after are eligible to request their leave be extended in accordance with these new rules.  I will spare you my rant about the challenges for employers that the politicians have created with this backdating and focus on solutions instead. Done is done.

Critical Clarification:  Available Employment Insurance has not changed.  So your employee taking 12-month maternity leave would get the same total amount of EI as if she took an 18-month maternity leave. Thus if an employee has already started her 12 month maternity leave and decides she wants to extend the leave to 18 months in accordance with the new rules, the funds remaining will be spread over the remaining duration.  That fact may make it difficult for employees to switch mid-leave, because someone who started in December will have already used half the EI funds and only have half left to be spread over a year.

Compassionate Care Leave

  • An employee with a family member who has a serious medical condition with significant risk of death is now entitled to up to 27 weeks off to provide support or care (up from 8 weeks)
  • Up to 26 weeks are eligible for EI subject to individual circumstances
  • Pregnancy Leave

  • Parental Leave

  • Compassionate Care Leave

  • Leaves Respecting Death or Disappearance of a Child

Two new leaves have also been introduced in BC

Leave Respecting Disappearance of a Child

  • If a child disappears and it is likely the disappearance was due to a crime (kidnapping for example), the employee is entitled to request a year off (52 consecutive weeks)

Leave Respecting Death of a Child

  • If a child dies, the employee is entitled to take two years off (104 consecutive weeks)

In all leaves, there is specific documentation which may be requested by the employer and provided by the employee to validate the leave.  And as with all protected leaves, when an employee is on this leave, his or her employment is deemed continuous. In short, that means the employee is entitled to all increases in wages and benefits they would have been entitled to if they didn’t go on leave.

What Should Employers Do Now?

  1. If you have a handbook or policies around leaves, now is the time to update them to align with the new rules. (Get help!)
  2. If you have employees on one of these leaves whose leaves started since December 3, 2017, it is worthwhile to reach out and clarify their plans. E.g., are they aware of the new leave lengths, how long are they planning to take off, and are they aware of how their EI may be affected?
  3. Update benefits offerings and other programs which wrap your leaves to fit your new reality.
  4. If you have employees who are asking about leaves, discuss these new leaves and the choices they have.
  5. If you have temporary employees or employees seconded to projects to cover maternity, parental, or compassionate care leave, once you know how long the person they are replacing will be gone, you may need to extend contracts and/or change postings to confirm the length of the term will change (e.g., temporary contract to cover a maternity leave may now be 18 months instead of 12).

That’s a brief summary of the changes.  Give us a call if you need help with cascading these changes through your policies and practices.