The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has made legislated bereavement leave policies top of mind for both employers and employees.
As of Sept. 15, at least one in 1,376 Canadian residents have died from the coronavirus, for a total of 27,315 deaths, according to The New York Times. Bereavement leave is available for employees across most Canadian jurisdictions and some of it’s even paid. With the exception of Nunavut, all provinces and territories’ employment legislation includes a bereavement leave policy. Unlike provincial emergency and sick leave policies, bereavement leave policies haven’t been amended in the wake of the pandemic.
The Northwest Territories provides employees with between three and seven unpaid days for the death of a family member, depending on where the funeral or memorial takes place.
In the Yukon, workers grieving a family member receive seven unpaid days, provided that the funeral falls within that week. If an employee is designated by the family of a deceased member of a First Nation as the person responsible for organizing the funeral potlatch, that employee is also entitled to an unpaid week. The Yukon also provides up to 104 weeks of leave for parents in the event their child’s death was the result of a crime.
British Columbia offers workers three non-consecutive, unpaid days for the death of an immediate family member, which is defined as anyone living with an employee as a member of their family.
In 2018, Alberta introduced three days of unpaid, job-protected bereavement leave. The annual leave — which is available to employees who’ve been with their current employer for at least three months — can be taken for the death of an immediate or extended family member, including anyone the employee considers a close relative.
After 13 weeks of employment, workers in Saskatchewan can take up to five unpaid days for the death of an immediate family member. This leave must be taken within one week before or after the funeral.
In Manitoba, employees dealing with a family member’s death are entitled to three days of job-protected bereavement leave, during which employers aren’t required to pay a worker’s wages. The province’s legislation defines ‘family’ in broad terms, ranging from immediate family members to individuals considered close relatives, regardless of blood relation.
Ontario provides employees with two unpaid, job-protected bereavement days each calendar year for the death of immediate family members, as well as for relatives who depend on the employee for care or assistance. This leave becomes available after two consecutive weeks of employment and an employee who missed part of a day to take the leave would be entitled to any wages they earned while working.
Employees in Quebec are entitled to a maximum of five days off, including two paid days, for an immediate family member’s death or one unpaid day for the death of a grandchild, grandparent or in-law. Employees are required to take these days between the death and the funeral. A worker may also be absent from work without pay for up to 104 weeks following the death of a child.
Both New Brunswick and Nova Scotia offer up to five consecutive unpaid days for the death of a close family member. New Brunswick’s employment legislation further stipulates bereavement leave must start no later than the day of the funeral.
Prince Edward Island is currently reviewing proposed amendments to its provincial bereavement leave policy pertaining to parents grieving a miscarriage or stillbirth.
The amendments would clarify the end of a pregnancy by way of miscarriage or stillbirth as a death of an employee’s immediate family member. The amendments also ask that bereavement leave be extended to an employee whose spouse or partner, or former spouse or partner, has experienced a miscarriage or stillbirth where the employee would have been the biological parent. Meanwhile, the federal Conservative Party has promised, if elected, to extend employment insurance parental benefits to parents experiencing the trauma of a miscarriage, stillbirth or loss of a child.
Currently, employees in PEI are entitled to one paid day and up to two unpaid days of bereavement leave for the death of an immediate family member, which includes a spouse, child, parent or sibling. In the event of an extended family member’s death, employees are entitled to three days of unpaid bereavement leave.
In Newfoundland and Labrador, job-protected bereavement leave must be provided in the event of the death of a spouse, child, parent, sibling, grandparent, grandchild or in-law. Employees who’ve worked 30 days with the same employer are entitled to one paid day and two unpaid days, while those who’ve worked less than 30 days receive two unpaid days.