Parental, compassionate leave changes take effect in B.C.

Expanded leave of absence entitlements in British Columbia, including parental and compassionate leave, took effect at the end of May.

The changes to the province’s Employment Standards Act allow mothers to start their maternity leave as early as 13 weeks before their expected due date, which is up from the previous 11 weeks. The province also brought its leave rules in line with federal employment insurance benefits, providing birth mothers with the option to take longer unpaid parental leave of up to 18 months.

Read: Parental leave rules set to undergo major shift as provinces adjust to EI changes

The provincial government also introduced a new unpaid leave of up to 52 weeks for a parent whose child is missing as a result of a crime. In addition, the changes include a new unpaid leave of up to 104 weeks if a worker’s child under the age of 19 dies. Prior to this new provision, the province only offered three days of unpaid bereavement leave.

“These amendments are about supporting B.C. workers and extending compassion to families who face tragic circumstances, such as the loss or disappearance of a child, or the need to care for a dying family member,” said Harry Bains, the province’s minister of labour, in a news release. “It will not erase the pain experienced during a personal or family crisis, but it can help ease the worry and stress over job security.”

The province also boosted compassionate care leave to 27 weeks from eight weeks for employees who need to tend to a terminally ill family member.

Read: What do Canadian provinces offer around sick, emergency leave?

“I’m proud that our government recognizes no one should have to fear for their job while they are taking care of their loved ones,” said Mitzi Dean, the province’s parliamentary secretary for gender equity. “These changes will give women and all workers some peace of mind that their jobs are protected when they are caring for family members at home.”

On June 1, the B.C. government increased its general minimum wage to $12.65 per hour, up from $11.35. As for the liquor server minimum wage, it rose to $11.40 per hour from $10.10.

The changes are the first of four annual increases set to occur each year on June 1 until the province’s minimum wage reaches $15.20 per hour in 2021. The government has also noted it will eliminate its separate lower wage for liquor servers.

Read: Highlights of Ontario’s labour law changes