Bill 8 ushers in changes to unpaid leave

The legislation introduces protective measures for workers facing difficult circumstances

Bill 8 ushers in changes to unpaid leave

Bill 8 – which amends the Employment Standards Act – aims to bolster support for workers who are 1) seeking assistance during a difficult time in their lives or 2) seeking redress of grievances and recompense for breaches committed by their employers.  

The amendment, as proposed by the British Columbia government, covers a wide range of concerns. The most important changes, however, focus on:

  • The awarding of additional leaves of absence for workers experiencing personal difficulty, i.e. caring for a sick family member or recovering from domestic violence
  • The extension of the period during which workers can claim owed wages
  • The enhancement of the collective agreement process  

The legislation, therefore, touches on the following areas:

  • Improving ways for workers to receive assistance, especially if they deem their rights have been violated
  • Adding protective measures in the workplace for people facing difficult personal circumstances
  • Ensuring workers receive just compensation

Bill 8 also specifically calls for children and youth to be protected from performing dangerous work.

READ MORE: Bill 66 passes - it turns out the sky isn't falling after all

Unpaid leave
Employees who are tasked with caring for a critically ill family member will be given up to 36 weeks of unpaid leave when looking after a child and up to 16 weeks of unpaid leave when caring for an adult patient. Meanwhile, workers who are recovering from domestic violence are entitled to take either 10 non-consecutive days or 15 consecutive weeks of unpaid leave.

Recovering unpaid wages
Employees who are owed wages will have a grace period of 12 months to claim their unpaid earnings. In some extreme cases, the recovery period can also be extended to 24 months.

Collective agreements
Bill 8 also returns to a practice set in place prior to 2002 in which the Employment Standards Act was deemed inapplicable to collective agreements if their components satisfied the requirements outlined in corresponding sections of the ESA. With this move, an arbitrator will have to determine whether provisions in the agreement as a whole ‘meet and exceed’ ESA requirements.

To stay head of the curve when it comes to legalese, book your ticket to our Employment Law Masterclass here.

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