The provincial government is introducing changes that would mean up to 18 months of time away from work for new mothers — a move intended to bring B.C.’s labour law in line with changes to employment insurance (EI) at the federal level.
Changes to the provincial Employment Standards Act would also allow for longer periods of leave for parents in tragic circumstances, including the death or disappearance of a child.
Recent changes to the federal EI program allow new and expecting mothers to receive benefits over an 18-month period, instead of just one year.
Those benefits come a reduced rate — so the total payout remain the same.
Despite the more flexible EI system, employers in B.C. don’t have to grant workers that extended leave under current labour laws. The proposed changes would bring the provincial and federal laws into step.
Birth mothers would be able to begin their pregnancy leave two weeks earlier and spend a longer period of time away from work following childbirth, for changes adding up to 18 months off the job.
“Under these amendments, we’re basically trying to support new families and keep families working,” said Julianne McCaffrey, communications director for the provincial Labour Communications Office.
The legislation also contains provisions for workers whose child goes missing as the result of a crime. Parents of missing children would have up to one year of job-protected leave.
Grieving parents will also have the right to a much longer unpaid leave of absence under the proposed legislation.
The current bereavement leave of just three days would be extended to a maximum of two years for parents of children who die before reaching the age of 19.
People with terminally ill family members would also have the right to longer periods of leave to care for sick relatives — that period of job-protected leave would be extended from eight to 27 weeks under the proposed legislation.
“These amendments are about supporting B.C. workers and extending compassion to families who face tragic circumstances,” said Minister of Labour Harry Bains. “It will not erase the pain experienced during a personal or family crisis, but it can help ease the worry and stress over job security.”
The changes passed third reading in the Legislature on April 12.