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Leaves of Absense

There are several types of leaves available to employees, as outlined in the federal and provincial Employment Standards Act and other related legislation. These are referred to as statutory leaves and are available to employees regardless of how long they have worked, as long as they meet the eligibility criteria. These leaves represent the minimum entitlements for all employees in Canada and/or British Columbia.

Many workplaces supplement the leaves offered to employees through provincial and federal legislation. Some workplaces will offer to continue to pay full or partial amounts of the employee’s wages while they are on a statutory leave. Some workplaces offer additional leaves of absences, such as short-term sick leave, professional development leave, educational leave and/or a general unpaid leave of absence.

This section reviews the responsibilities of the employer and employee regarding leaves, leave management and record keeping. It outlines best practices that workplaces can adopt to ensure they are well-positioned to support the health and wellness of their employees. It articulates some of the common challenges and complexities workplaces can discover in managing leaves of absence and provides the tools and resources to successfully navigate common leave requests.

For more information on statutory leave of absence, refer to the Employment Standards Act.

If you have additional questions or concerns, please consult your Engagement Partner.

ROLES & RESPONSIBILITIES

EMPLOYER

Must:

  • NOT prevent employees from accessing leaves for which they are entitled under the Employment Standards Act or applicable legislation.
  • Remember that an employee who is on leave from the organization is still employed. In other words, an employee’s employment is considered continuous while on an authorized leave or a statutory leave and they remain eligible for annual vacation and termination entitlements, wage and benefit increases, as well as pension, medical or other benefits available to the employee.
  • NOT terminate an employee on leave for reasons related to the leave.
  • Place the employee in their original or comparable position upon their return from the leave.

Best Practice:

  • Employers should keep a record of all leaves and leave requests.
  • For more information on administering leave requests, see the Leave Management & Record Keeping section.
  • Employers must have clear policies and/or processes around leaves in an employee handbook or employee manual.
  • For more information, see the Employee Handbook Template.

Resources:

EMPLOYEES

Must:

  • Connect with their supervisor as soon as possible to request or discuss the need for a leave of absence.
  • Make the request for leave in writing and include proposed start and end date.
  • Submit any supporting documentation for a leave of absence at the time of the request or within a reasonable time frame.
  • Speak to their employer in advance of returning from a leave to confirm arrangements and ensure a smooth transition.

LEAVE MANAGEMENT & RECORD KEEPING

Must:

  • Keep a record of leaves taken by employees.
  • Submit a Record of Employment (ROE) to Service Canada when an employee has had or is anticipated to have:
    • An interruption of earnings for seven (7) consecutive days; or,
    • A reduction in salary below 60% of their regular earnings because of illness, injury, pregnancy, the need to care for a newborn or child placed for the purposes of adoption or the need to provide care or support to a family member who is critically ill.
  • Submit a Record of Employment (ROE) regardless of whether the employee intends to file a claim for Employment Insurance (EI) benefits.
  • Establish mechanisms to stop and resume an employee’s pay when they go on an unpaid leave of absence.

Best Practice:

  • Create policies to address leaves of absence in your workplace.
  • Use a Leave of Absence Form or a time management system to record an employee’s leave of absence.
  • Require employees to submit a Leave of Absence Form and attach all supporting documentation, such as the employee’s written request and any additional documentation to support or prove the need for the leave.
  • Set a meeting with the employee to discuss the leave request and confirm details using the Leave of Absence Checklist.
  • Complete a Leave of Absence Confirmation Letter to confirm the terms of the leave.
  • When an employee goes on a leave of absence for medical reasons, the employer must request medical sign-off from the employee’s care provider to ensure they are fit to return to work.
  • A return to work plan needs to be developed in cases where the care provider approves a gradual return to work (e.g., working limited days and/or times or with limited duties).
  • Once the return to work plan is finalized, confirm details using the Medical Duty to Accommodate Letter.
  • Keep all leaves of absence forms and supporting documentation in an employee’s personnel file.

Resources:

TYPES OF LEAVES

MATERNITY, PARENTAL & ADOPTIVE LEAVE

Entitlement:

  • Maternity Leave:
    • A birth parent has a basic entitlement of up to 17 weeks of unpaid leave.
    • This is a statutory entitlement through the Employment Standards Act.
    • Employees are eligible for Employment Insurance (EI) to provide temporary income support to eligible individuals who take unpaid time away from work to care for a new child.
  • Parental Leave:
    • Up to 62 weeks of parental leave.
    • This is a statutory entitlement through the Employment Standards Act.
    • Employees are eligible for Employment Insurance (EI) to provide temporary income support to eligible individuals who take unpaid time away from work to care for a new child.
  • Adoptive Leave:
    • Up to 62 consecutive weeks of adoptive leave.
    • This is a statutory entitlement through the Employment Standards Act.
    • Employees are eligible for Employment Insurance (EI) to provide temporary income support to eligible individuals who take unpaid time away from work to care for a new child.

Conditions:

  • Maternity Leave:
    • Maternity leave must be taken during the period that begins no earlier than thirteen (13) weeks before the expected birth date and no later than the actual birth date.
    • Maternity leave continues for at least six (6) weeks after the birth. A certificate from a doctor or nurse practitioner is required if an employee wants to return to work sooner.
    • If the employee is unable to return to work for reasons related to childbirth, the leave can be extended for six weeks (for a total of 12 weeks).
    • Employees can take up to six (6) consecutive weeks of leave starting on the date a pregnancy ends.
    • Maternity leave can be combined with parental leave.
      • For more information, see the Parental Leave section.
  • Parental Leave:
    • Parental leave may begin any time within 78 weeks after the child’s/children’s birth.
    • Both parents can take one full period of parental leave.
  • Adoptive Leave:
    • Adoptive leave may begin any time within 78 weeks after the child or children are placed with the parent.

Must:

  • The employer must submit a Record of Employment (ROE) to Service Canada when an employee goes on maternity, parental or adoptive leave.

Best Practice:

  • Unlike other leaves, the workplace is often aware of a pending maternity, parental and adoptive leave well in advance and can use this time to prepare a smooth transition.
  • Managers should connect with their employee who will be going on leave well in advance to discuss the intentions, including intended start and end date of leave.
  • Some larger workplaces will top-up the Employment Insurance (EI) benefits employees are eligible for through Service Canada and will cover up to 95% of an employee’s salary for the first three (3) to six (6) months. Often this salary top-up is dependent on the employee returning to work full-time for the equivalent of six (6) months at the end of their leave.
  • Recruiting and hiring a maternity leave replacement is often critical to ensure proper organizational support and coverage during the employee’s extended leave of absence. Make sure to post and select a new incumbent well enough in advance to provide overlap between the replacement and out-going employee. During the overlap time, the departing employee can train and orient their replacement.

FAMILY RESPONSIBILITY LEAVE

Entitlement:

  • Up to five (5) days of unpaid leave in each employment year to help with the care, health or education of a child under the age of 19 in their care.
  • This is a statutory entitlement through the Employment Standards Act.

Conditions:

  • Family responsibility leave can also be used to care for the health of any other member of their immediate family.
  • Family responsibility leave does not accumulate from year to year.

Consider:

  • Some workplaces choose to re-name family responsibility leave to personal leave and open up the eligibility for this additional time to employees who may or may not have family under the age of 19 in their care, but who could still use time off throughout the year to attend to personal matters. The time can remain unpaid or be offered as a paid leave of absence available to all staff every year.
  • Other workplaces treat this leave as a general unpaid leave of absence and record it in payroll as such.

COMPASSIONATE CARE LEAVE

Entitlement:

  • Up to 27 weeks of unpaid leave within a 52-week period of care for a family member who is terminally ill.
  • This is a statutory entitlement through the Employment Standards Act.
  • Employees are eligible for compassionate care Employment Insurance (EI) benefits to provide temporary income support to eligible individuals who take unpaid time away from work to provide end-of-life care or support to a family member who has a significant risk of dying within six (6) months.

Supporting Documentation:

  • When it is reasonably possible to do so, the employee must supply their workplace with a medical certificate that confirms the family member has a serious medical condition and is at risk of death within 26 weeks.

Must:

  • The employer must submit a Record of Employment (ROE) to Service Canada when an employee goes on compassionate care leave.

CRITICAL ILLNESS OR INJURY LEAVE

Entitlement:

  • Up to 36 weeks for a child and up to 16 weeks to care for a family member over the age of 19 whose health has significantly changed as a result of an illness or injury and the life of the family member is at risk.
  • This is a statutory entitlement through the Employment Standards Act.
  • Employees are eligible for compassionate care Employment Insurance (EI) benefits to provide temporary income support to eligible individuals who take unpaid time away from work to care for a critically ill or injured child or adult.

Supporting Documentation:

  • When it is reasonably possible to do so, the employee must supply a medical certificate that confirms:
    • The health of the family member has significantly changed and as a result, the life of the family member is at risk.
    • The care or support of the family member can be provided by someone who is not a medical professional.
    • The period of time that the family member will need care of support.

BEREAVEMENT LEAVE

Entitlement:

  • Up to three (3) days of unpaid leave if an immediate family member dies.
  • This is a statutory entitlement through the Employment Standards Act.

Conditions:

  • This leave:
    • Does not have to be taken as three (3) consecutive days.
    • Does not need to be used for attending a funeral.
    • Does not have to start of the date of death.

Consider:

  • Some workplaces offer to continue an employee’s salary during a bereavement leave.
  • Some workplaces create a bereavement leave policy that allows employees to have three (3) days (paid or unpaid) from work for the death of a family member, plus two (2) additional days (paid or unpaid) if travel is required.

DOMESTIC & SEXUAL VIOLENCE LEAVE

Entitlement:

  • Up to five (5) days of paid leave and five (5) more days of unpaid leave per calendar year if an employee is impacted by this kind of violence.
  • In addition, up to fifteen (15) more weeks of unpaid leave during the calendar year.
  • This is a statutory entitlement through the Employment Standards Act.

Conditions:

  • This leave can be applied to parents of a child or dependent impacted by this kind of violence.
  • An employee’s right to this leave does not depend on how long an employee has been employed.
  • While on the paid leave an employee earns an average day’s pay for each day of leave. An average day’s pay includes salary, commission, statutory holiday pay and paid vacation days.

Best Practice:

  • If an employer seeks documentation to support the request for this leave, the employee can provide documentation of how that time will be used (seeking new housing, speaking to children’s school teachers, etc.), as opposed to documenting the experience of this kind of violence.

LEAVE RESPECTING THE DEATH OF A CHILD

Entitlement:

  • Up to 104 weeks of unpaid leave if the employee’s child dies.
  • This is a statutory entitlement through the Employment Standards Act.

Conditions:

  • The leave ends after 104 weeks off, or if the employee has taken time off in different units, the last day of the last unit of time.

LEAVE RESPECTING THE DISAPPEARANCE OF A CHILD

Entitlement:

  • Up to 52 weeks of unpaid leave if the child disappears as the result of a crime.

Conditions:

  • The employee may take leave in different units of time with the employer’s consent.

RESERVISTS LEAVE

Entitlement:

  • Employees who are reservists for the Canadian Forces are entitled to 20 days of unpaid leave in a calendar year for the following reasons:
    • Being deployed to a Canadian Forces operation outside of Canada
    • Participating in pre- or post-deployment training activities
    • Being deployed to assist with an emergency or its aftermath in Canada

VOTING

Entitlement:

  • Employees are entitled to four (4) consecutive hours free from work to vote in a provincial election.
  • Employees are entitled to three (3) consecutive hours free from work to vote in a federal election.
  • This is a statutory entitlement through the Employment Standards Act.

Conditions:

  • This entitlement does not mean employees get to take off their whole entitlement to vote. The time is to be used when required and necessary.
  • Employers can determine when their employees can take time off to vote.

Best Practice:

  • Create a policy and/or practice that outlines the employee’s entitlement for time off to vote.
  • Include a description of the policy and/or practice in an employee handbook or employee manual.

EDI Best Practices:

  • Some workplaces, to recognize the diversity of their staff, allow eligible employees time off to vote in an Indigenous election.

Resources:

COURT OR JURY DUTY

Entitlement:

  • Employers must give employees unpaid leave to participate in the jury selection process and to serve as a juror.
  • This is a statutory entitlement through the Employment Standards Act.

Supporting Documentation:

  • To get a leave of absence to attend jury selection or duty, the employee must provide proof of service as a juror and/or court appearance requirements.

Best Practice:

  • Create a policy and/or practice that outlines the employees’ entitlement for time off to attend jury selection and duty.
  • Articulate in the policy that the employee will need to request an unpaid leave of absence or use vacation time to attend court for personal matters.
  • Include a description of the policy and/or practice in an employee handbook or employee manual.

Consider:

  • Some workplaces have a policy and/or practice that states that the employer will continue to pay the employee’s salary while they serve as a juror. The policy also then states that any stipend or monies received while serving as a juror will be reimbursed to the employer.

Resources:

MEDICAL, DENTAL & OTHER APPOINTMENTS

Entitlement:

  • There is currently no legislation that provides employees with time off (paid or unpaid) to attend medical, dental and other appointments.
  • Employees can use their unpaid family responsibility leave to attend medical appointments, if required.

Best Practice:

  • Create a policy and/or practice that allows employees to use their banked sick time (if one exists) to attend medical, dental and other appointments.
  • Include a description of the policy and/or practice in an employee handbook or employee manual.

Resources:

SICK LEAVE

Entitlement:

  • Effective January 1, 2022, employees covered by the Employment Standards Act, and who have worked for their employer for at least 90 days, are eligible for up to five (5) days of paid leave per year for any personal illness or injury.
  • Eligible employees are additionally entitled to up to three (3) days of unpaid leave per year for personal illness or injury.
  • If required, employees can apply for Employment Insurance benefits (Medical EI) if they meet the requirements.
    • For more information, visit here.
  • Once an employee has exhausted their Employment Insurance (Medical EI) benefits, they are eligible to apply for long-term disability insurance.
    • For more information, visit here.
  • If an employee is injured on the job, they may be eligible for Workers’ Compensation Coverage.
    • For more information, see the Workers’ Compensation Leave section.
    • For additional information, visit here.

Supporting Documentation:

  • Employers may request a medical report from a qualified medical practitioner for employees who are away from work for an extended period of time.
  • Workplaces should determine what would constitute an extended period of time for their organization. In some workplaces a medical report is requested after three (3) consecutive days off sick. Other workplaces request a medical report if the employee requests an extended medical leave.
  • The medical report from the employee’s qualified medical practitioner should contain the following information:
    • Nature of the illness
    • Dates of the absence
    • Dates medical attention was sought
    • Outline of how the illness affects the employee’s ability to perform their duties
    • Expected date of return to work, if known
  • After an extended medical leave, the employee should be required to meet with their qualified medical practitioner for a medical examination and report determining their suitability to return to work.
  • Some medical reports will indicate that the employee should have a gradual return to work, working part-time for a number of weeks before returning to full-time duties. Some medical reports indicate that the employee should have modified duties, for example, not lifting items over 10 kilograms for a month.

Best Practice:

  • Create a policy and/or practice that allows employees to earn sick time to be taken as paid time off when required. Include guidance as to when medical documentation will be required.
  • Many workplaces have a policy or practice that allows employees to earn sick hours every month up to a maximum amount. This accrual amount is pro-rated for part-time employees.
    • For example: employees earn the equivalent of one (1) day or 8 hours of sick time every month up to a maximum of fifteen (15) sick days or three (3) weeks, after which accrual ends until the sick time hours fall below the equivalent of fifteen (days).
  • Some workplaces have a policy and/or practice that states that if an employee has not accumulated enough sick leave credits to cover the amount of time they need to be away from work due to illness or an accident, the employee can use unused vacation time and/or take an unpaid leave of absence for the remainder of time they need to be absent.
  • Include a description of the policy and/or practice in an employee handbook or employee manual.

Resources:

COVID-19-RELATED LEAVE

Entitlement:

  • Employees are entitled to unpaid leave for as long as any of the following applies in relation to COVID-19:
    • The employee has been diagnosed with COVID-19 and is acting in accordance with:
      • Instructions or an order of an medical health officer; or
      • Advice of a medical practitioner, nurse practitioner or registered nurse
    • The employee is in quarantine or self-isolation in accordance with:
      • An order of the provincial health officer;
      • An order made under the Quarantine Act (Canada);
      • Guidelines of the BC Centre for Disease Control; or
      • Guidelines of the Public Health Agency of Canada
    • The employer, due to the employer’s concern about the employee’s exposure to others, has directed the employee not to work
    • The employee is providing care to another person (e.g., the employee’s child), including because of the closure of a school or daycare or similar facility
    • The employee is outside the province and cannot return to BC because of travel or border restrictions
    • A prescribed situation exists relating to the employee
  • Until December 31, 2021, employees are entitled to up to three (3) days of paid leave during the leave period described above.
  • Employees are entitled to paid leave of up to three (3) hours for the purposes of COVID-19 vaccination.
  • This is a statutory entitlement through the Employment Standards Act.

Supporting Documentation:

  • If requested by the employer, the employee must, as soon as practicable, provide reasonable sufficient proof that the employee is entitled to this leave.
  • An employer must not request, and an employee is not required to provide, a note from a medical practitioner, nurse practitioner or registered nurse.

WORKERS’ COMPENSATION LEAVE

Entitlement:

  • In the event an employee gets injured on the job, they may be eligible for a leave of absence supported and managed through Workers’ Compensation Coverage.
  • If eligible, the employee may be entitled to salary compensation to address salary lost for being away from work due to a workplace injury, hazard exposure or accident.

Must:

Best Practice: