Ontario is planning to allow workers to take five days of paid leave as part of its package of labour law changes.

While the government had originally planned to allow for an unpaid leave of absence of up to 17 weeks when an employee or a child has experienced or is facing the threat of domestic or sexual violence, it has since introduced amendments to that plan. One of the amendments is to provide five days of paid leave as part of the protections. The government says it’s also asking its federal counterparts to provide workers in that situation with 15 weeks of employment insurance benefits. The legislature’s standing committee on finance and economic affairs will vote on the proposed amendments on Nov. 16.

The move comes as the federal government has provided more details on its changes to parental and caregiver benefits. The changes to employment insurance will take effect on Dec. 3, the federal government has announced.

The changes include allowing pregnant workers to receive employment insurance maternity benefits up to 12 weeks before their due date, an increase on the previous eight weeks, as well as the option for parents to choose between the standard parental benefits taken over a year or receive the same payments spread over 18 months.

Read: Budget boosts parental leave to 18 months, introduces caregiving benefit

Nora Spinks, chief executive officer at the Vanier Institute of the Family, says that while the changes to parental benefits will offer more flexibility, working families will have to make a choice. “There’s much more flexibility now than ever before, so what families will have to decide is whether they value time or money more. Because that’s the biggest choice. They can have less time and more money or more time and less money,” she says.

The changes also include the introduction of new employment insurance benefits. The first will provide for up to 15 weeks for caregivers taking care of a critically ill or injured adult family member. The other is the availability of up to 35 weeks of benefits for immediate and extended family members taking care of a critically ill child. The benefit was previously available only to the child’s parents.

Read: Earlier maternity leave benefits, other EI changes coming this fall

For the new caregiving program, Spinks says employers and human resources personnel will have to take a number of factors into account, noting it may be more challenging to administer than maternity and parental benefits.

“Generally speaking, you get as an employer about six months’ notice that there’s an impending arrival of a new baby. Family care, you could go home for the weekend and dad’s just broken a hip and you’re off. And so that’s a new thing that employers have to consider,” says Spinks.

The changes to maternity and parental benefits won’t affect residents of Quebec, as the province has its own plan. However, the changes to caregiver benefits will apply across the entire country.

“Every Canadian’s situation is unique, with different family and work needs,” said Jean-Yves Duclos, minister of families, children and social development, in a news release. “By making EI caregiving, maternity and parental benefits and leaves more flexible, inclusive and easier to access, we are providing Canadians with more options to better balance their work and life responsibilities.”

Read: How will 18-month parental leave affect top-up programs?


Copyright © 2020 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on benefitscanada.com

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