Work: Special Leaves

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by Efim Cheinis and Dale Sproule

This is a slightly modified version of chapter 13.5 in the book How to Find a Job in Canada:
Common Problems and Effective Solutions, released in 2008 by Oxford University Press Canada

Sometimes things happen in peoples personal lives that require them to spend some time away from work. Most employees in Canada are entitled to some special leaves for cases such as these. As an employee, when are you entitled to this leave?

Special leave time is governed by the Canada Labour Code and provincial and territorial standards.

Three types of leave (time off) are described in this article. Usually, employees are allowed to take this time off whether they work full-time or part-time. And time taken for these approved leaves is included in an employee’s working period. This means that the time counts toward seniority, vacation, and salary, as if the employee had been on the job the whole time.

Maternity and Parental Leave
Time off is provided for a woman to have a baby (maternity leave) and for a mother, father or guardian to take care of a child (parental leave). Parental leave is also permitted when a child is adopted. Below is some information on maternity and parental leave:

  • Maternity leave is either 17 or 18 weeks, depending on the province, and parental leave ranges from 12 to 52 weeks. Mothers who take both leaves must begin their parental leave immediately after their maternity leave.
  • If you are on maternity or parental leave, you will not receive pay, but your job will be kept for you during this time. That is, it’s “job-protected” time off.
  • A woman may be eligible for maternity benefits. These are payments from the federal Employment Insurance (EI) program. For more information, check with Human Resources and Social Development Canada or Service Canada (HRSDC).
  • To be eligible for pregnancy leave, a woman must have been hired by the employer at least 12 weeks to one year before the due date of the child – depending on where she lives – and she may need a medical certificate as well.
  • After the birth, she or the other guardian must obtain the additional non-paid parental leave. The parent must give a written statement notifying his or her employer in advance. Both parents are eligible for the parental leave within one year of birth or adoption of a baby.

Emergency Leave
Some employment contracts provide paid emergency leave. If yours doesn’t and your workplace employs at least 50 people, you may still have a right to receive unpaid, job-protected emergency leave.

Most jurisdictions allow for emergency time off, sometimes specifying whether it may be taken as sick leave, bereavement time, or to attend to family obligations. You must tell your employer about the need for emergency leave on the day of the emergency or as soon as possible afterwards. This leave does not need to be taken all at once.

This type of leave can often be negotiated even with employers who are not required by law to provide it.

Compassionate Care Leave
Compassionate care leave, also sometimes called family medical leave or parental leave, is permitted in most provinces and territories so that an employee can care for members of their family who are seriously ill.

Alberta and the Northwest Territories do not offer compassionate care leave, other than for federally regulated employees.

This unpaid, job protected leave can be taken in blocks of at least one week, usually up to eight weeks in a 26 week period. To obtain this leave, the employee has to provide a certificate from a qualified medical professional.

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