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Changes to the BC Employment Standards Act – May 2018

BC Employment Standards ActOn May 17, 2018, amendments to BC Employment Standards Act came into effect. These changes bring the province’s pregnancy, parental and compassionate care leave provisions in line with changes to the Employment Insurance Act which came into effect in December 2017. The amendments also introduce two new job-protected leaves related to the death or crime-related disappearance of a child.

Provincially-regulated employers in BC should be aware of the following amendments:

Pregnancy (Maternity) Leave

  • A pregnant employee can now begin their pregnancy leave up to 13 weeks (previously 11 weeks) prior to the expected birth date of their child.
  • Pregnancy leave can be up to 17 weeks.

Parental Leave

  • A parent who takes pregnancy leave can take up to 61 consecutive weeks (previously 35 weeks) of unpaid leave immediately after the end of her pregnancy leave.
  • A parent who does not take pregnancy leave can take up to 62 consecutive weeks (previously 37 weeks) of unpaid leave, which must begin within 78 weeks (previously 52 weeks) after the birth of the child.
  • An adopting parent can take up to 62 consecutive weeks (previously 37 weeks) of unpaid leave, which must begin within 78 weeks (previously 52 weeks) after the child is placed with the parent.
  • The combined entitlement for pregnancy and parental leave is limited to 78 weeks which is 18 months (previously 52 weeks).
  • If on May 17, 2018, an employee with a child born on or after December 3, 2017 is already taking parental leave, they are eligible for the full amount of parental leave they are entitled to under the new legislation, minus the period of parental leave already taken as of May 17, 2018.

Compassionate Care Leave

  • Employees are eligible for up to 27 weeks (previously 8 weeks) of unpaid leave within a 52 week period to provide care or support to a family member who has a serious medical condition with a significant risk of death within 26 weeks.

New – Leave Respecting the Disappearance of a Child

  • Employees are entitled to an unpaid leave of up to 52 weeks in the event that their child under 19 years of age has gone missing and it is probable the child’s disappearance is the result of a crime.
  • If the child is found alive during the leave, the leave will end 14 days thereafter. If the child is found deceased, the leave will end immediately.

New – Leave Respecting Death of Child

  • An employee whose child under 19 years of age dies is entitled to up to 104 weeks of unpaid leave of absence from work, starting as of the date of death or after a child who has disappeared is found deceased.

For these job-protected leaves, the BC Employment Standards Act also contains other relevant provisions:

  • Continuous employment – While on any of the leaves of absence noted above, employment is considered continuous for the purposes of calculating annual vacation and termination entitlements, as well as for medical or other plans of benefit to the employee. An employer must continue to make payments to any such plans unless the employee chooses not to continue their share of the cost of the plan. The employee is also entitled to all increases in wages and benefits that the employee would have received had they not been on leave.
  • Conditions of employment – An employer cannot terminate an employee, or change a condition of employment, because of the leave, without the employee’s written consent.
  • Return to work – When the leave ends, an employee should be returned to their former position or to a comparable position. It is the employer’s responsibility to contact the employee to make arrangements for their return to work.

As with any new government, employers can expect additional reviews to be conducted of provincial employment legislation. Other changes to the BC Employment Standards Act, the BC Labour Relations Code, the BC Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, and the Occupational Health and Safety Act may be forthcoming in the near future.

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