Employees everywhere noted when the Federal Government’s plan to increase maternity leave from 12 months to 18 months came in to force last December.
Many employees took this to mean that they were now entitled to a year and a half off for pregnancy and parental leave. However, this was not the case. Only federally regulated employees (banks, telecommunications, railways etc.), were entitled to stretch their EI payment over 18 months. For provincially governed employees (which are the vast majority of employees in British Columbia) employees couldn’t use the 18 months of benefits because there was no provincial legislation to actually allow them to take that much time off. The only way an employee could take advantage of the federal program was if his or her employer voluntarily permitted the employee to take those extra months off.
Enter Bill 6, the Employment Standards Amended Act 2018.
Last week, Bill 6 passed first, second and third reading. This bill, if made in to law, will correct this inequality between provincially and federally regulated employees in British Columbia. The proposed Act contains several provisions but the most notable change is extending the available maternity leave (consisting of both parental and pregnancy leave) to match the available EI.
For all provincially regulated employers, i.e. employers subject to the Employment Standards Act, this change requires them to provide at least 18 months leave for parental and pregnancy leave combined. This change puts federally and provincially governed employees on the same ground.
The Amendment Act also provided for some new leaves for employees, including a leave for the disappearance of a child related to crime and for the death of a child. If passed into law, these leaves would be mandatory for employers to provide to employees in those unfortunate circumstances.
We will provide updates when Bill 6 receives royal assent and is made law.