Recent changes to the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (Ontario) have made it possible for employees, who are subject to that Act, to take three new types of unpaid leaves of absence from their employment, which are as follows:

  1. Family Caregiver Leave;
  2. Critically Ill Childcare Leave; and
  3. Crime-Related Child Death or Disappearance Leave.

Under the Family Caregiver Leave provisions, an employee is entitled to an unpaid leave of absence to provide care or support to a spouse, parent, step-parent, foster parent, child, stepchild, foster child, grandparent, step-grandparent, grandchild, step-grandchild, spouse of a child, sibling or relative who is a dependant. Such leave is also available for employees who chose to care for anyone, who in relation to the employee’s spouse, would be included within the group of aforementioned persons.

In order to take the leave, a certificate must be issued by a qualified health practitioner, stating that the individual who requires the care has a serious medical condition. A “serious medical condition” may include a chronic or episodic condition. Eight weeks of leave may be taken for each calendar year.

With regard Critically Ill Childcare Leave, an employee may take leave without pay to care for a child, stepchild or foster child under the age of 18 years, whose “baseline state of health has significantly changed and whose life is at risk as a result of an illness or injury”. The maximum amount of leave is 52 weeks, which is dependent on certain conditions.

Under the Crime-Related Child Death or Disappearance Leave, an employee may take between 52 to 104 weeks’ of unpaid leave in some circumstances.

The foregoing is a general summary of the three types of new leaves of absence which may be taken; they are each subject to many different exceptions and requirements. Anyone considering taking such leave or any leave is recommended to seek legal advice before doing so.

It is vital that employers be cognizant of the new changes and accommodate their employees who decide to take such leave, with no reprisals for taking the leave.

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