The amendments to Ontario’s Employment Standards Act do not provide an exemption for small businesses and I suspect the new law will have a disproportionate impact on these employers
(PRWEB) August 18, 2014
This fall, employers should be prepared for some meaningful changes in the workplace. Starting on October 29, 2014 employees in Ontario, Canada will have the right to take more time off work as a result of changes to the province’s Employment Standards Act.
“Sourcing temporary workers to fill in for these leaves of absence will be a challenge for most employers” predicts Doug MacLeod of the MacLeod Law Firm
If employees start taking these leaves, major scheduling issues will arise in a small workforce. “The amendments to Ontario’s Employment Standards Act do not provide an exemption for small businesses and I suspect the new law will have a disproportionate impact on these employers”, says MacLeod.
For example, under the new law “employees can take up to 8 weeks off work to provide care or support to family members who have a ‘significant medical condition’” notes MacLeod. MacLeod postulates that, “It is not uncommon for employees in their 50s to work all day and care for a parent at night. This law will permit the employee to take time off during the working day to care for the parent.”
Unfortunately for employers, the law does not include a definition of the term “significant medical condition” so MacLeod predicts the courts will ultimately have to decide what constitutes a “significant medical condition”. In the meantime, “employers will have to decide whether or not a medical condition is serious enough to trigger the employee’s right to take time off work” states MacLeod who has been advising Ontario employers for over 25 years.
According to MacLeod, another practical concern for employers is the fact that employees are not required to take full weeks off work to care for family members such as parents, children or spouses. “Employees who decide to work a 3 or 4 day work week for up to 8 weeks a year will create a logistical nightmare for some employers.” He also predicts that: “In small job markets it will be difficult for employers to find temporary workers who are prepared to take a one or two day a week job for 8 weeks – especially when the full-time employee can decide to end the leave early.”
The new law also provides a parent with a critically ill child with the right to take up to 37 weeks off work in a 52 week period as long as a doctor certifies the child needs the care or support of a parent. In addition, this law allows a parent whose child disappears and it is probable the child disappeared as a result of a crime to take up to a 52 week unpaid leave of absence. MacLeod does not believe that these two leaves will create a significant problem for most employers. “In my experience, these kind of scenarios do not arise very often in the workplace” he says.
To mitigate the adverse impact of this new law on an employer’s business, MacLeod recommends that the employer establish a relationship with a temporary placement agency, and, if possible-create a casual or part-time workforce who can increase their hours as needed.
The MacLeod Law Firm has represented employers doing business in Ontario, Canada over the past 25 years. MacLeod Law Firm's practice includes defending wrongful dismissal claims, employee terminations, severance packages, employment contract review, employee resignation advice, human rights claims and workplace safety.