Michael Ford (post until Oct. 31/19)
Employment & Labour

Amended act will allow for more time off work

Employers should be prepared for incoming changes to Ontario’s Employment Standards Act that give employees the right to take more time off work, says Toronto employment lawyer Doug MacLeod.

As of Oct. 29, the new law will allow employees to take up to eight weeks off work to provide care or support to family members who have a ‘significant medical condition,’ says MacLeod, principal at MacLeod Law Firm.

“Sourcing temporary workers to fill in for these leaves of absence will be a challenge for most employers,” says MacLeod, noting if employees start taking these leaves, major scheduling issues will likely arise in a small workforce. “The amendments to Ontario’s Employment Standards Act do not provide an exemption for small businesses and I suspect the new law will have a disproportionate impact on these employers.”

It’s not uncommon for employees in their 50s to work all day and care for a parent at night, says MacLeod, noting the law will permit the employee to take time off during the working day to care for the parent.

The legislation does not include a definition of the term “significant medical condition,” says MacLeod, meaning the courts will ultimately have to decide what meets this requirement.

Another concern for employers is the fact that employees are not required to take full weeks off work to care for parents, children or spouses, adds MacLeod.

“Employees who decide to work a three- or four-day work week for up to eight weeks a year will create a logistical nightmare for some employers,” he says. “In small job markets it will be difficult for employers to find temporary workers who are prepared to take a one- or two-day-a-week job for eight weeks – especially when the full-time employee can decide to end the leave early.”

The new law also provides a parent with a critically-ill child with the right to take up to 37 weeks off work in a 52-week period as long as a doctor certifies the child needs the care or support of a parent, says MacLeod.

As the new law becomes closer to reality, MacLeod recommends employers establish a relationship with a temporary placement agency, and, if possible, create a casual or part-time workforce who can increase their hours as needed.

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