New CLC bereavement leave and upcoming paid sick leave provisions for employees

Upcoming addition of paid sick leave under the CLC

Though the effective date is yet to be determined, federally regulated employers should be prepared to implement the following changes to their sick leave practices this year.

While the CLC currently allows for 3 days of paid leave (out of a total of 5) of personal leave, this year, there will be a requirement for employers to provide up to 10 paid days of sick leave (to be called medical leave), as follows:

  • 30 days after the leave comes into effect for existing employees, employees will earn 3 days of paid sick leave.
  • New employees will earn 3 days after one month of continuous employment.
  • Thereafter, employees will earn 1 paid sick day per month to a maximum of 10 sick days per calendar year.
  • Unused sick days may be carried forward to the subsequent calendar year, but the maximum allowance remains at 10.
  • Employers may request a medical certificate for paid leaves that are 5 days or more.
  • Employers can require that sick leave periods be no less than 1 day, or they can allow it to be taken in half-days or less, at their discretion.

Unlike accrued but unused vacation days, there is no requirement to pay out unused sick days if an employee leaves, nor is this an approach the vast majority of organizations take. In fact, we recommend against doing so, as it can prevent employees from taking needed time, if they know they’re planning to leave your organization.

As for any other provision under the Canada Labour Code, these regulations set out the minimum required standards. Employers may choose to go over and above and provide more generous leave allowances and terms, if they wish. If you choose to do so, we recommend it aligns with your organizational culture and overall policies. While, on average, federally regulated employers typically provide 12 paid sick days per year, if you choose to provide more than the 10 required days, it may make more sense for your organization to allow those additional days to be more flexibly used (e.g., paid personal days for family/care responsibilities).

Finally, if you already provide 10 or more paid sick days to employees, and allow for carry-over, there’s no need to amend your existing policy or practices, other than to ensure you observe the associated details.

Changes to bereavement leave under the CLC are now in effect

In the case of bereavement leave, the new provisions (which allow for a greater period of unpaid leave, in addition to the existing paid portion) are now in effect. As of this year, employees may take up to 10 days (previously 5 days) of bereavement leave in the event of a death of an immediate family member or a family member, 3 of which must be paid, if they’ve been employed for three consecutive months. Associated details are as follows:

  • The allowance of 10 days is ‘per death’ and not ‘per year’.
  • Employees may take leave in one or two periods starting on the day the death occurs and ending six weeks after the day on which the funeral, burial, or memorial service occurs.
  • Employees may take this leave in the event of a death of an immediate family member as defined by the Canada Labour Code.
  • They may also take this leave in the event of a death of a family member, if they took compassionate care or critical illness leave, as defined by the CLC, to care for the family member prior to their death.
  • If an employee’s child or the child of their spouse/common-law partner dies (including stillbirth), they may take unpaid leave for up to 8 weeks.

As noted previously, these are the minimum required standards, and you may go over and above them. Again, if you choose to do so and, for example, provide 5 (instead of 3) paid days of bereavement leave out of the 10, ensure this fits with your overall practices.

While the majority of the bereavement provisions have already been in effect, the change from 5 required days off to 10 could have a significant impact on your organization, particularly for employees with large families. While you do need to comply with the legislation, you can also proactively work with your employees to find creative and compassionate ways to support one another through difficult circumstances.

Jouta’s HR consulting team can help update your leave practices and employee handbooks in light of these new provisions.