The Employment Standards Act (British Columbia) requires employers to grant unpaid pregnancy, parental, family responsibility, compassionate care, reservist, bereavement and jury duty leave.
Providing the time off is just the start of the employer’s obligations. Employees on leave continue to “earn” the following, as if they were at work:
- length of service credit;
- vacation credit;
- pension credit; and
- insurance plan benefits.
The employer must recognize increases in wages and benefits, such as benchmarks for wage increases or qualification periods for benefits being reached during the leave.
The right to vacation time off continues to accrue during the leave, but vacation pay is usually reduced since it is based on the prior year’s earnings. However, if the employee is paid a set salary and provided with a “paid vacation”, the employee may get a fully paid vacation.
Medical and other benefit plans also continue, subject to the employee continuing to make the contributions to the premium cost, if any, normally required.
Employees are entitled to be reinstated at the conclusion of the leave to the same position they had before the leave, or to a comparable position. The onus is on the employer to prove that a different position is comparable.
Leaves under the Act are unpaid, but the Branch will enforce contractual rights to be paid while on leave.
- Review all plans and policies against the leave requirements in Part 6 of the Act.
- Review whether your practice or policy is to pay for some or all of such leaves.
- If the employee’s position is no longer available, carefully document the need to make changes, the efforts to find a comparable position and the functions and qualifications related to available jobs.