Bereavement Leave in Ontario

In a previous post we wrote about employees’ rights regarding bereavement leave. However, with the change of the Ontario provincial government, things have also changed with regards to employee’s bereavement leave entitlements.

Bereavement Leave Entitlements Under Bill 148

Bill 148 gave all employees 10 days of personal emergency leave per year, the first two of which had to be paid. These ten days could be used as needed for illness, bereavement, caring for a sick child etc.

Bereavement Leave Entitlements under Bill 47

Bill 47 – Making Ontario Open for Business Act – separated Bill 148’s personal emergency leave entitlements in to three separate leaves: sick leave, family responsibility leave and bereavement leave. Under Bill 47 each leave is allocated a specific number of days that are independent of all other leaves.

As of January 1, 2019, employees may take up to two days of bereavement leave for the death of the following family members: spouse, parent, step-parent, foster parent, child, step-child, foster child, grandparent, step-grandparent, grandchild or step-grandchild of the employee or the employee’s spouse, the spouse of your child, your brother or sister or a dependent relative.

Bereavement leave is a job-protected (you cannot be threatened or punished for taking this leave), unpaid leave per calendar year regardless of whether they are employed part- or full-time.

Bereavement leave can be taken at the time of the death of one of the above listed family members or later for the purpose of a funeral or memorial service or to attend to estate matters.

After two weeks of working for an employer an employee is entitled to take this leave. This time is not pro-rated and the two days do not need to be taken consecutively. However, employers have the right to count a half day of leave as a full day but the employee must still be paid for the hours they work.

Employees must give their employers verbal or written notice as soon as possible that they plan to take this leave.

Another change brought by Bill 47 is that employers may now ask for evidence “reasonable in the circumstances” of an employee’s need to take bereavement leave. This evidence may be, among other things, a death certificate, notification from a funeral home or a published obituary. ‘Reasonable circumstances’ include a variety of factors but in short, unless there is reasonable suspicion that the employee is not using this two-day leave for bereavement purposes, employers should refrain from asking for evidence of an employee’s need to take this leave.

If you have questions regarding the changes to Ontario’s employment law brought in by Bill 47 and how they may affect you, connect with us.

Severance vs. Termination Pay: What’s the Difference Anyway?

Though sometimes used interchangeably, termination pay and severance pay are not the same thing. While all employees of three months or longer with a company are entitled to termination pay (in place of notice) upon dismissal, not everyone is entitled to severance pay. To clarify the difference between the two, we’ve prepared a handy refresher for you.

What Is Termination Pay?

Termination pay is, quite simply, pay that is given in place of required notice of termination. Normally, an employee who is terminated without cause is entitled to either a statutory period of notice during which they continue working and receiving pay and benefits,  or they are entitled to pay in place of said notice. The amount of notice to which an employee is entitled will likely be set out in their employment contract, otherwise they are entitled to certain minimum standards guaranteed under the Employment Standards Act (ESA).

Required Notice for Termination in the ESA

The length of notice to which employees are entitled depends on how long they have been working with a company. The ESA guarantees the following notice durations or pay in lieu thereof:

Duration of Employment Notice or Pay-in-lieu Entitlement
3 months to less than a year 1 week
1 – 2 years 2 weeks
3 years 3 weeks
4 years 4 weeks
5 years 5 weeks
6 years 6 weeks
7 years 7 weeks
8 or more years 8 weeks

For example, If you worked for 4 years and 6 months at a company with a weekly pay of $1,000 and were terminated without cause, you would receive either four weeks’ notice or $4,000 (4 x $1,000) upon termination.

What Is Severance Pay?

As mentioned above, not everyone is entitled to severance pay. Severance pay is considered an earned benefit for long-serving employees. Or, as the Ontario Ministry of Labour puts it, severance pay “compensates an employee for loss of seniority and the value of firm-specific skills, and recognizes his or her long services.”

Additionally, to qualify for severance pay you must have worked for a company with a total annual payroll of $2.5 million or more for at least five years.

Severance pay is calculated differently from termination pay. To determine severance pay, you must multiply your regular week’s wages by your number of years of employment with the company.

For example, if you worked 7 years and 6 months (with a qualifying company) at a regular weekly pay of $1,000, your severance pay would be $7,500 ($1000 x 7.5).

Severance and Termination Pay Entitlements Lawyers

Consulting with an experienced employment lawyer is the best way for you to determine your full severance and termination pay entitlements. KCY at LAW have the expertise to ensure you your full entitlements under the ESA and your employment contract. Reach us at 905-639-0999 or contact us to book your consultation.

Working Remotely

While remote working arrangements have been on the rise for years, bolstered largely by improving communications technologies and increasing demands from employees, the coronavirus pandemic has forced many workplaces to think more generously about what work can be done by their employees from their homes.

For the sake of public health and safety during this pandemic, not to mention the desperate need to keep operations running and profits flowing, just about every employee who is able to work from home is now doing so as much as possible. However, as many employers and employees have recently discovered, rapidly switching a substantial portion of the workforce to do their jobs remotely is often a lot more complicated than it may have previously seen.

That’s why in this post we will discuss some of the main challenges and considerations facing employers as they transition and maintain an efficient remote workforce.

First and foremost, if you have employees working remotely – because of coronavirus or otherwise – you will strongly benefit from having comprehensive policies to guide and structure this arrangement. Having standard policies in place will ensure a formal, consistent framework that will encourage a fair, productive and beneficial arrangement for all parties.

Below are just some of the topics your remote working policies should address

Productivity

A good work-from-home policy should, at a minimum, set out expectations regarding employees’ work and productivity. Employers should clarify or reaffirm reporting structures and make clear how employees will be held accountable for their work and meeting deadlines. Your policies should, for example, detail things like how and when check-ins will be performed.

Leading a team remotely can be difficult. It’s helpful to establish regular check-ins (both individual and as a team) to stay connected and focused on your mission.

With so much uncertainty and many unexpected demands (like homeschooling) brought on by the pandemic, employers might choose to focus on their employees’ output, rather than the specific hours they use to deliver them. It may be wise during these times to allow your employees some flexibility with the time they do their work so as to accommodate the various disruptions many are currently facing.

Health and Safety

The Occupational Health and Safety Act “does not apply to work performed by the owner or occupant or a servant of the owner or occupant to, in or about a private residence or the lands and appurtenances used in connection therewith.”

In other words, the OHSA doesn’t apply to employees working from home. However, while health and safety might not need to be an employer’s top concern for their employees who are working from home, they should nonetheless detail any requirements for the physical work space of employees to be compliant with relevant health and safety legislation.

Privacy

Having employees work from home will, for many employers, require some degree of changes to the way that confidential information is stored and handled, even if said data is all digital. Removing sensitive materials from the office may be a necessity for some businesses to ensure employee safety and still keep their business afloat. However, handling private information outside of established procedures creates risks that employers will need to mitigate by reviewing and updating privacy policies and training employees on how to handle confidential information when working from home.

As discussed above, employers will want to keep close tabs on their employees’ productivity when they are working from home. There are now many software products that allow employers to do just this. These products can allow employers to track employee screen time, mouse activity, random screenshots among other data. Canadian employers are legally free to use such software provided that they inform their employees that they will be monitored and in what ways.

For more information about work-from-home arrangements, click here.

As jobs change to be done increasingly electronically, so will expectations about working remotely. We recommend you design your telecommuting policy in consultation with an experienced employment lawyer. Call KCY at LAW on 905-639-0999 or contact us online to book your consultation.