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In March of 2013, Ontario Minister of Labour Yasir Naqvi introduced Bill 21 to amend the Employment Standards Act, 2000 to introduce three additional unpaid leaves of absence, including a Family Caregiver Leave. Entitlement to the leave would be in addition to the existing Family Medical Leave which provides that an employee is entitled to eight weeks of unpaid leave to provide care and support to a qualified relative who has been medically-certified as having a serious medical condition with a significant risk of death.

Under the proposed Family Caregiver Leave, an employee would be entitled to eight weeks of unpaid leave to provide care or support to any of the following family members who have a serious medical condition: the employee's spouse; a parent, step-parent or foster parent of the employee or employee's spouse; a child, step-child or foster child of the employee or of the employee's spouse; a grandparent, step-grandparent, grandchild or step-grandchild of the employee or employee's spouse; the employee's son or daughter-in-law; the employee's sibling; or a relative of the employee who is dependent on the employee for care or assistance.

A qualified health practitioner must issue a certificate stating that the family member has a serious medical condition. If requested by the employer, the employee will have to provide the employer with a copy of the certificate as soon as possible.

The Family Caregiver Leave has no minimum service requirement. In contrast, the other two proposed leaves of absence (the Critically Ill Child Care Leave and the Crime-Related Child Death or Disappearance Leave) require that an employee be employed by the employer for at least six consecutive months in order to be eligible for the leave.

The employee must provide the employer with written notice of his or her intention to take the leave or if not possible to do so prior to the leave, as soon as possible after beginning the leave.

What qualifies as a serious condition is not specified in the proposed amendments or in the Employment Standards Act, 2000. The existing Family Medical Leave, which requires that the serious condition involve a significant risk of death, suggests that the Family Caregiver Leave would potentially apply to a wide range of serious, but not life-threatening conditions.

The Bill is currently in its second reading and being debated.

This content is not intended to provide legal advice or opinion as neither can be given without reference to specific events and situations. © 2021 Nelligan O’Brien Payne LLP.

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