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New Year, New Changes to Prince Edward Island’s Employment Standards Act
On December 29, 2018, new amendments to Prince Edward Island’s Employment Standards Act concerning maternity, parental and adoption leave, compassionate care leave, and the qualifying period for sick leave came into effect.
What Are the Changes?
Maternity, Parental & Adoption Leave
The most noteworthy change arising from the new amendments is that the parental leave period has been increased, bringing it in line with recent changes to parental employment insurance (EI) benefits under the Federal Employment Insurance Act.
The changes to Federal maternity and parental EI benefits were recently discussed in a previous article and are as follow:
- EI Maternity Benefits – Mothers can now begin EI maternity benefits as early as 12 weeks before their due date (previously, it was only 8 weeks) and can end as late as 17 weeks after the actual date of birth. EI maternity benefits are provided for a maximum of 15 weeks at 55% of their average weekly insurable earnings, to a maximum of $547.00 per week.
- EI Parental Benefits – There are now two options available for new parents caring for a newborn or newly adopted child: standard benefits or the new extended benefits. Standard EI parental benefits provide parents with up to 35 weeks of EI parental benefits and must be claimed within the 12 month period after the child was born or adopted. The claimant receives a benefit rate of 55% of their average weekly insurable earnings, up to a maximum of $547.00 per week. The new extended EI parental benefits provide parents with up to 61 weeks of extended EI parental benefits and must be claimed within the 18 month period after the child was born or adopted. The claimant receives a benefit rate of 33% of their average weekly insurable earnings, up to a maximum of $328.00 per week. Extended EI parental benefits provide the same cumulative value as Standard EI parental benefits – however, it provides parents with the option of extending their benefits for an extra six month period while receiving a lower weekly benefit amount.
Prince Edward Island
As a result of the new amendments to the Employment Standards Act, employees on Prince Edward Island now have the ability to begin maternity leave no earlier than 13 weeks before their due date (previously, it was 11 weeks). The duration of maternity leave available remains the same at a maximum of 17 weeks.
Parental leave is now increased from 35 weeks to 62 weeks. Parental leave may be taken by one or both parents and combined with maternity leave. However, the total amount of parental and maternity leave shall not exceed 78 weeks (18 months). Additionally, adoption leave has been increased from 52 weeks to 62 weeks.
The changes to maternity, parental and adoption leave also apply to employees whose terms and conditions of work are established by a collective agreement pursuant to Prince Edward Island’s Labour Act.
For information on parental and maternity leave across Atlantic Canada, see the following publication, posted to our website in January 2019: Update: An Overview of Parental and Maternity Leave in Atlantic Canada
Compassionate Care Leave
The maximum period of unpaid compassionate care leave that an employee may take has been increased from 8 weeks to 28 weeks.
Under the Employment Standards Act, employees are entitled to this unpaid leave of absence for the purpose of providing care and support to a family member of the employee if the employee provides the employer with a copy of a certificate issued by a medical practitioner stating that a family member of the employee has a serious medical condition carrying with it a significant risk of death within 28 weeks. “Family member” is broadly defined to mean a member of the immediate family of the employee, extended family of the employee, niece, nephew, foster parent, ward or guardian, or any person who the employee considers to be like a person described as family.
The changes to the maximum period of compassionate care leave also apply to employees whose terms and conditions of work are established by a collective agreement pursuant to Prince Edward Island’s Labour Act.
The qualifying period to provide an employee with the ability to obtain sick leave was reduced from employment for a continuous period of six months to employment for a continuous period of three months.
This means that where an employee has been employed for a continuous period of three months, the employee is now entitled to up to three days leave of absence without pay for sick leave during a twelve calendar-month period.
What Should Prince Edward Island Employers Consider as a Result of These Changes?
If the employer has a top-up policy, extended parental leave could result in the employer paying more money than the employer initially intended. To avoid such unintended consequences, employers with top-up parental leave policies should review their policy language to determine if it needs to be revised to include limits on duration or quantum of benefit earnings. Likewise, if an employer has benefit sharing provisions for a term of leave, the employer should determine whether the benefit sharing provisions need to be revised to have a specified term.
If revisions are required to the policy, it is important for the employer to give advance notice of the revised policy and a grace period for the changes to take effect. Before making any revisions or implementing a new policy, employers should obtain legal advice to ensure that the policy is properly implemented and therefore enforceable.