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  August 3, 2018

Changes to Unpaid Leave Periods in British Columbia

Amendments to the Employment Standards Act (ESA) in 2019 and 2020 have introduced new job protected leave periods as set out below.

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Changes to Unpaid Leave Periods in British Columbia

Amendments to the Employment Standards Act (ESA) in 2019 and 2020 have introduced new job protected leave periods as set out below.

Critical illness or injury leave: Employees may now take unpaid leave to provide care or support to a family member, where they provide a medical certificate. Employees taking leave to provide such care to family members under 19 years of age may do so for up to 36 weeks. Where the family member is 19 years of age or older, the employee may take up to 16 weeks.

Leave respecting domestic or sexual violence: Initially, the ESA provided only for unpaid leave for employees if they (or an eligible person, such as a child or dependent adult in the employee’s care) experienced domestic or sexual violence. On August 14, 2020, the ESA was further amended to allow a brief period of paid leave in addition to unpaid leave. Currently, employees are entitled to up to 5 days of paid leave and 5 days of additional unpaid leave to seek medical attention, counselling or other social or psychological services, or legal advice, or to seek new housing if they or an eligible person has experienced domestic violence. If necessary, an employee can take up to 15 weeks of additional unpaid leave.

In addition, two new unpaid leave periods were introduced on March 23, 2020.

COVID-19-related leave: Employees may be eligible if they meet certain specific criteria related to COVID-19 diagnosis, quarantine or self-isolation, or the provision of care to an eligible person, among other circumstances. An employee is entitled to the leave for as long as the circumstances making the employee eligible for the leave continue to apply. The availability of this leave is expected to be a temporary measure that will be repealed when the COVID-19 pandemic is over.

Illness or injury leave: Employees who have been employed with the employer for at least 90 consecutive days are now entitled to up to three days of unpaid leave per year for personal illness or injury.

Earlier amendments to the ESA came into force on May 17, 2018, and included the following changes:

Pregnancy (Maternity) Leave Pregnant employees are able to begin unpaid job protected pregnancy leave 13 weeks before their expected due date (previously 11 weeks).  The total pregnancy leave period of 17 consecutive weeks has not changed.

Parental Leave:  Parental leave has been extended to align with the extended federal EI parental benefit. The leave period:

  • allows 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 previous leave available to birth mothers, which provided a maximum protected leave period of 52 weeks to birth mothers (inclusive of pregnancy leave); and,
  • allows 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 (previously 37 weeks).

Compassionate Care Leave:  Increased to a 27-week leave period (previously 8 weeks).

Child death leave:  In the event of the death of a child (under the age of 19), parents are entitled to up to two years of unpaid job protected leave.

Crime-related child disappearance leave:  In the event a child disappears as a result of crime, parents are entitled to unpaid leave of up to 52 weeks.

This article was provided by Mathews Dinsdale & Clark LLP. The information provided in this article is necessarily of a general nature and must not be regarded as legal advice. For more information about Mathews Dinsdale & Clark LLP, please visit mathewsdinsdale.com.

go2HR is BC’s tourism and hospitality, human resources and health & safety association, driving strong workforces and safe workplaces that deliver world-class tourism and hospitality experiences in British Columbia. Follow us on LinkedIn or reach out to our team.

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