Dec 1, 2021  By John Hyde

Federally Regulated Employers Beware - Upcoming Changes to the Canada Labour Code

On November 26, 2021, the Government of Canada introduced Bill C-3, An Act to Amend the Criminal Code and the Canada Labour Code. If passed, the proposed legislation would make important changes to employee entitlements concerning medical leaves of absence.

Federally regulated employers, such as airlines, trucking companies, banks and telecommunication companies to name a few, should take note of these proposed changes, as they will impact employment contracts, workplace policies, and the ways in which medical leaves are taken. 

How Bill C-3 will Amend the Canada Labour Code 

A. Employees Would be Entitled to a Maximum of 10 Paid Medical Leave Days 

If Bill C-3 is passed, the legislation would repeal the current employee entitlements of five days of leave to treat an illness or injury. Instead, employees would earn one day of paid medical leave for every completed month of continuous employment, up to a maximum of 10 days in a calendar year. Furthermore, each day of medical leave must be paid at the employee’s regular rate of wages. If the employee does not take a day of paid medical leave within a calendar year, that day is carried forward to the following year, and would be counted towards the ten paid medical leave days that can be earned in the new year.

This proposed amendment to the Canada Labour Code represents a new and significant employee entitlement, which is an important consideration for federally regulated employers, as leaves of absence are enshrined in the contracts they enter into with employees. Employers would be required to incorporate this change into their contracts, as well as the workplace policies which touch upon paid medical leaves of absence.

While Bill C-3 allows employees to take a medical leave of absence with pay during different periods, the proposed legislation nevertheless provides that employers may require that each period of leave not be less than one day. Thus, should Bill C-3 pass and become law, the ways in which future leaves of absence are requested, granted and taken, can also be impacted.

B. Employers would be Entitled to Request Documentation Concerning Medical Leaves 

Under Bill C-3, employers may require employees to provide a certificate issued by a health care provider stating that the employee was incapable of working while on a paid medical leave of absence. As well, the employer would need to make their request in writing no later than 15 days after the employee returns to work.

Similarly, if a medical leave of absence without pay lasts for three days or longer, Bill C-3 grants employers the ability to request a certificate issued by a health care provider stating that the employee was incapable of working while they were on a medical leave of absence.

In these ways, Bill C-3 would provide employers with tools to increase transparency and understanding around an employee’s medical leave of absence. However, employers must also be cognizant of the fact that the ways in which they use such tools must be lawful.

The Bottom Line for Employers

Employment law is a complex area of law, further complicated by the pandemic, and one that is ever changing. For employers who wish to stay on the right side of the law in relation to their employment contracts, workplace policies, and overall operations, this means that decisions should not be made without expert legal advice.

If you have any questions about how Bill C-3 may impact your company, or if you would like our help in reviewing and/or re-drafting employment contracts and/or workplace policies, please do not hesitate to contact us.

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