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May 12, 2017

Changes to Personal Emergency Leave in the Automotive Sector

Personal Emergency Leave

An employee facing a personal emergency, such as a death in the family or the illness of a family member, often requires a few days away from work. Ontario’s employment standards legislation, the Employment Standards Act (“ESA”), specifically addresses these types of emergency situations. Section 50 of the ESA requires most employers who regularly employ 50 or more employees, except under limited circumstances[1], to provide employees with ten (10) unpaid days off for “personal emergency leave” (“PEL”).

Under the ESA, employees can take PEL for the following reasons:

  1. the employee is facing a personal illness, injury, or medical emergency;
  2. the death, illness, injury, or medical emergency of a family member;
  3. an urgent matter related to a specified member of their family.[2]

Personal Emergency Leave in the Automotive Sector

On January 1, 2017, Ontario implemented changes to the PEL provisions of the ESA for certain employers in the automotive industry.[3] The ten (10) day entitlement has now been split into two distinct categories: seven (7) unpaid personal emergency days and three (3) unpaid bereavement days. The three (3) unpaid bereavement days are not subject to a yearly limit; so long as the leave is related to the death of one of the listed family members, the employee will be entitled to the leave.  

Changing Workplaces Review

The changes to PEL in the Automotive Sector are a part of the Ontario government’s ongoing consultation and review of the ESA and Labour Relations Act. In the Changing Workplaces Review Interim Report, several changes to the PEL provisions were proposed to address a number of issues, including the fact that employees viewed PEL days as an entitlement which existed in addition to the generous sick leave and bereavement leave provisions already provided by their employers. One of the suggestions was to separate the entitlements under the PEL into distinct categories; this provides employers with greater clarity on whether they are providing employees with a “greater right or benefit” than what is set out in the PEL provisions of the ESA.

Future Changes

The changes to PEL in the automotive industry have been implemented as part of a pilot project. If they prove to be successful, they may be expanded to other specific industries, or to apply across the board.

The Changing Workplaces Review Interim Report considered a number of other important workplace concerns and potential changes to the ESA. Some other possible changes being considered are: the introduction of paid sick leave; changes to the exemptions for certain employees for overtime pay; and, introducing new types of leave, such as leave for victims of sexual violence.    

Although the final report on the Changing Workplaces Review has not yet been released, employers should prepare themselves, as the changes to PEL in the auto industry are but one pit stop on the road to updating Ontario’s employment standards legislation.

[1] A number of professions, including a practitioner of law, professional engineering and practitioner of veterinary science are exempt from PEL in circumstances in which the exercise of the entitlement would constitute an act of professional misconduct or a dereliction of professional duty. 

[2] The ESA outlines that family members for the purposes of the emergency leave provisions include the following: the employee’s spouse; a parent, step-parent or foster parent of the employee or the employee’s spouse;  a child, step-child or foster child of the employee or the employee’s spouse;  a grandparent, step-grandparent, grandchild or step-grandchild of the employee or of the employee’s spouse;  the spouse of a child of the employee; the employee’s brother or sister; a relative of the employee who is dependent on the employee for care or assistance. 

[3] Regulation 502/06 applies to: automobile manufacturing, automobile parts manufacturing, automobile parts warehousing and automobile marshalling.

The foregoing is for informational purposes only, and should in no way be relied upon as legal advice. For legal advice tailored to your circumstances and business, please contact any of SOM LLP’s lawyer’s by email or telephone.

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