Ontario-based employers are being called on to submit feedback about proposed changes to the personal emergency leave provisions in Ontario’s Employment Standards Act. The deadline for submissions is today, Aug. 31, 2016.

The topic is one of many addressed in Ontario’s Changing Workplace Review Interim Report, which was opened for consultation at the end of July. The deadline for submissions across the full report is Oct. 14, 2016.

According to the authors of the report, special advisors C. Michael Mitchell and John C. Murray, some, mostly larger, employers have raised concerns about the personal emergency leave provisions, saying they are an unfair addition to generous leave and benefit packages already provided to employees and that employers don’t get sufficient credit for providing them. Furthermore, employers believe personal emergency leave provisions are abused, causing excessive absenteeism that impacts workplace productivity and efficiency.

The proposed options put forward in the interim report are:

  1. Maintain the status quo;
  2. Remove the 50-plus employee threshold;
  3. Break down the 10-day entitlement into separate leave categories with separate entitlements for each category but with the aggregate still amounting to 10 days in each calendar year; or
  4. A combination of options 2 and 3 but maintaining different entitlements for different sized employers.

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Under current legislation, according to the interim report, employees who work for organizations with 50 or more employees are entitled to 10 days of unpaid personal emergency leave. The ESA states that an employee can use these days for a personal illness, injury or medical emergency, or for the death, illness, injury or medical emergency or urgent matter concerning: the employee’s spouse; a parent, step-parent or foster parent of the employee or the employee’s spouse; a child, step-child or foster child of the employee or the employee’s spouse; a grandparent, step-grandparent, grandchild or step-grandchild of the employee or of the employee’s spouse; the spouse of a child of the employee; the employee’s brother or sister; or a relative of the employee who is dependent on the employee for care or assistance.

According to the report, personal emergency leave is not easily comparable to leave provisions in other jurisdictions in Canada because it combines a number of different types of leaves (illness, bereavement and family responsibility). Ontario is also the only jurisdiction to have an employer-size eligibility threshold.

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Prior to publication of the interim report in July, the Ontario government heard concerns from employee advocates about the 50-plus employee threshold, with recommendations put forward to remove the threshold and extend personal emergency leave to employees working for smaller employers, so that all Ontario workers can have access to the benefit.

Submissions to the first phase of the report also asserted that personal emergency leave should be assessed in the context of the other leaves provided in the Employment Standards Act, including pregnancy leave, parental leave, family medical leave, organ donor leave, family caregiver leave, critically ill child-care leave, crime-related child death or disappearance leave, leave for declared emergencies and reservist leave.

Some employers have said that the nature and scope of the current PEL makes it difficult for employers to establish that their leave policies provide a greater right or benefit than PEL,” said the interim report. “For example, some say that even though they provide for paid sick leave, some employees are asking for additional unpaid sick leave days pursuant to the statutory provision.

“During consultations, we heard from a number of employers about absenteeism and employees abusing the PEL provisions. Some employers pointed to high levels of absenteeism on Mondays and Fridays and on days abutting holidays as circumstantial evidence of abuse.”

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Following the consultation, the special advisors will provide the government with a final report and recommendations to help inform changes to modernize the province’s employment and labour laws.

Ontario-based employers are asked to provide feedback on the interim report by Oct. 31 here. However, submissions specifically relating to the subject of personal emergency leave must be completed by Aug. 31 here.

“Updating legislation to reflect Ontario’s evolving workforce is a complex and important task, and the interim report will help to focus this conversation,” said Minister of Labour Kevin Flynn in a news release. “It is critical that we have laws in place that protect workers and support business so Ontario can remain a place where workers feel safe and protected and businesses can reach their full potential, continue to create jobs and help our economy grow.”

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Copyright © 2019 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on benefitscanada.com
See all comments Recent Comments

CJDAS:

So your telling me going back to the old way of having the employer insist on you getting a doctor’s note for every incident better!? Waste more medical resources things are better the way it is 10 days is nothing when you compare sick time to the public sector do some research. Boycott this motion people it’s 10 days out of a possible 300 to not be bothered perhaps it’s mental health, your sick, your spouse and you need a day, your family needs a day together, death in the family whatever it’s 10 days leave people alone give them their time and you’ll see more productive work anyways, or go the other route have the entire workforce and medical professionals hate you for wasting their time and tax payer medical resources on a letter for your lack of trust in your own employee’s.

Thursday, September 01 at 5:59 pm | Reply

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