British Columbia introduces critical illness or injury leave and domestic or sexual violence leave
Effective May 30, 2019, British Columbia employment standards legislation has been amended to introduce critical illness or injury leave and domestic or sexual violence leave. These new forms of leave must be provided to British Columbia employees who meet legislative requirements, with implications for employers who offer pension and benefit plans in British Columbia.
Critical illness or injury leave
This type of leave entitles employees to take an unpaid leave in order to care for or support a family member (defined as being in the employee’s immediate family or any other individual in a prescribed class) if they obtain a certificate from a medical or nurse practitioner. This certificate must state that the family member has experienced a change to the baseline state of health that puts the life of the family member at risk. The certificate must also state that the care or support required by the family member can be met by one or more persons who are not medical professionals, and set out the period for which the family member requires care or support.
The statutory maximum length of critical illness or injury leave is 36 weeks if the family member is a minor or up to 16 weeks if the family member is an adult. The period can begin at the earlier of the first day of the week in which the certificate is issued and the first day of the week where the family member’s condition significantly changes and their life is at risk.
Domestic or sexual violence leave
This type of leave applies to an employee or an eligible person in respect of an employee. An eligible person is defined as a minor child of the employee, an adult child who is under the care of the employee, or another prescribed person.
In order for the leave to be taken, the employee or eligible person must have experienced physical abuse by an intimate partner or family member, sexual abuse by any person, or psychological or emotional abuse by an intimate partner or family member. The same provisions apply if the violence or abuse was attempted. A child is also considered to have experienced domestic violence if the child is exposed, directly or indirectly, to domestic or sexual violence by an intimate partner or family member of the child.
Domestic or sexual violence leave may be taken for one or more of the following purposes: physical or psychological medical attention, to obtain victim services related to domestic or sexual violence, to obtain counselling, to relocate, to seek legal or law enforcement assistance in either a civil or criminal proceeding or any prescribed purpose.
An employee is entitled to up to 10 days of unpaid leave in units of one or more days and, additionally, a single period of 15 weeks of unpaid leave taken all at once. The employer may also consent to dividing the single 15 week period into smaller periods.
An employee is not entitled to leave respecting an eligible person if the employee is the one who commits the violence against that person. If the employer requests proof that the employee is entitled to leave then the employee must provide reasonably sufficient proof as soon as practicable.
These two new types of leave build upon the most recent expansion of employment leaves in British Columbia, which was summarized in the June 2018 News & Views. Employers in British Columbia are required to continue any pension and benefits coverage during employment leaves required by law, subject to the employee making any required contributions. Employers should therefore be prepared to administer these new leaves with respect to their pension and benefits plans. Pension plan amendments may be required if a registered pension plan sets out all forms of employment leaves available to employees.
These new forms of leave became effective immediately as of May 30, 2019.