Canada Work Life Balance Enhancements

Federal changes are finally in full effect in Canada as of Sept 1st, 2019 with regard to work life balance provisions in Part III of the Canada Labour Code. These amended policies have affected numerous work categories such as flexible work arrangements, additional leave types and other areas where more flexibility in the workplace was warranted.

Flexible work arrangements are now available to employees (upon request) after six months of continual employment. This could relate to a change in hours, schedule, location of work, or any other work specific details. Employees of federally regulated employers must provide these requests in writing and must also explain how the request will affect both the employer and the employee, as well as how any changes to the current working agreements will be managed.

If a flexible work request is partially or entirely refused, the employer must provide written reasoning as to why the request was not approved. Usually the reasons for refusal are based on additional costs to the organization or the creation of a detrimental impact to the work produced or provided by the employee. A narrow scope of reasons for refusal are now listed in the Canada Labour Code.

New amendments to leaves have been added to the Canada Labour Code. Highlights include:

  • An increase to 5 personal leave days per year after 3 consecutive months of employment (the first 3 of which must be paid)
  • 5 days per year of unpaid leave for Traditional Aboriginal Practices for Aboriginal persons who have completed at least 3 consecutive months of continuous service
  • 10 days (5 paid + 5 unpaid) for victims of family violence for employees who have completed three consecutive months of continuous employment
  • Unpaid leave (no required amount) for jury duty
  • Pregnant or Nursing women may take an unpaid leave if they are unable to work due to pregnancy or nursing starting from the beginning of pregnancy until the 24th week after the birth of the child. It is important to note that this leave is different from Maternity leave and Parental leave
  • An increase to 5 days (3 paid + 2 unpaid) for bereavement leave if a person has been employed for at least 3 consecutive months. This leave can be taken at any point from the time of death of the immediate family member up to 6 weeks after the funeral, burial or memorial service
  • Changes to the current sick leave policy have been retitled as Medical Leave and employees are eligible for 17 weeks unpaid leave for any personal illness, injury, organ or tissue donation, or for medical appointments during working hours
  • Employees may also be able to concurrently use leaves as long as the purpose of the leaves is the same
  • Vacation pay has also been increased to:
    • After one year of continuous employment – 2 weeks’ vacation (4% vacation pay at 4% gross earnings)
    • After 5 years of continuous employment – 3 weeks’ vacation (vacation pay at 6% of gross earnings)
    • After 10 years of continuous employment – 4 weeks’ vacation (vacation pay at 8% of gross earnings)

With these new changes, it is now up to employers to determine if employees are currently getting better leave and vacation based on their current employment contracts or collective agreements, or if these documents need to be updated to reflect the basic minimum requirements as stipulated by the Canadian Labour Code. The new Code stipulations may lead to an increase of “stacking” of the different kinds of leave, therefore employers should prepare themselves for these kinds of situations and determine the best ways to cope with them.

It is also up to employers to familiarize themselves with subsection 17(a) of the Regulations Amending the Canada Labour Standards in order to ensure that part-time, temporary and casual employees are provided the correct employment standards as well.

It is vital at this time that Canadian employers review their employment documents, policies, agreements, and handbooks to ensure that all of the new legislation is in effect in the workplace.

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