Ontario's proposed new leave laws explained

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Ontario employers may soon have to accommodate additional types of leave after the provincial government introduced two new types under the Employment Standards Act. Here, one leading industry lawyer explains the potential amendments.

Jonathon’s Law

Also known as Bill 175, the legislation would offer extended protection to parental employees who have suffered the loss of a child.

“Under Bill 175, an employee who has been employed by his or her employer for at least six consecutive months will be entitled to a leave of absence without pay of up to 52 weeks if a child of the employee dies,” explains Matthew Demeo, of McCarthy Tétrault.

According to Demeo, "child" is defined in the Bill to include children, step-children and foster children under the age of 18.

Bill 177

If passed, Bill 177 - Domestic and Sexual Violence Workplace Leave, Accommodation and Training Act – would see employers shoulder several more responsibilities.

Employers will be required to provide a leave of absence of a ‘reasonable duration’ to employees who have experienced (or who have children who have experienced) domestic or sexual violence,” explains Demeo.

However, this leave can only be used by employees for specific purposes, including:
  • Seeking medical attention or counselling related to the violence.
  • Obtaining support services or legal assistance.
  • Relocating (temporarily or permanently) to reduce the likelihood of future violence.
“Unlike most ESA leaves which are unpaid, Domestic Violence or Sexual Violence leave will provide employees with up to 10 days of paid leave per calendar year, which would make this the first and only paid leave under the Employment Standards Act,” reveals Demeo.

“The second requirement under Bill 177 will be for employers to accommodate, up to the point of undue hardship, employees who have (or whose children have) experienced domestic or sexual violence,” he continues.

“This may include changing an employee's place of work and/or their hours of employment to accommodate the employee's circumstances,” he adds.

As a further obligation, Bill 177 will also require employers to ensure that every manager, supervisor and worker receives “information and instruction” about domestic and sexual violence in the workplace.

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  • Jeannie McQuaid on 2016-04-25 8:43:30 AM

    I have no problem with Bill 175. Most employers would extend additional time off to a parent in these circumstances as a matter of compassion and practicality.
    But Bill 177 endeavors to make employers social workers yet again. Employers are NOT the ones who should be educating society about sexual and domestic violence. Moreover, every time employers are thrust into dealing with their employee's personal life, they become more open to accusations of discrimination. As the HR Manager, I do not want to know details of my employees' private lives, become their legal advisor or adjudicator of social assistance. Domestic/Sexual Violence Leave should be unpaid leave by the employer, lost wages reimbursed through either EI or the Ontario Works program.

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