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Job Protected Leaves of Absence

Olivia Oszkiel

June 5, 2024

The primary piece of legislation that governs workers in British Columbia and sets minimum standards for working conditions is the Employment Standards Act, RSBC 1996, c 113 (the “ESA”).

Part 6 of the ESA sets out the various types of leaves of absence that employees are allowed to take under the Act. Although most leaves are unpaid, all are job-protected. Pursuant to section 56 of the ESA, employment is considered continuous during a leave covered by the Act.

Types of Leaves

Illness or Injury Leave: Pursuant to section 49.1 of the ESA, after 90 days of employment, employees can take up to 5 paid days and 3 unpaid days of illness or injury leave per calendar year.  The BC Government provides further information regarding sick leave here.

Family Responsibility Leave: Pursuant to section 52 of the ESA, employees can take up to 5 days of unpaid leave in each employment year to help with the care, health or education of a child in their care, or the care or health of any other member of the employee’s immediate family. Further information provided by the BC Government can be found here.

Other types of leave include:

  • Maternity and parental leave
  • Compassionate care leave
  • Critical illness or injury leave
  • COVID-19 – Related leave
  • COVID-19 – Vaccination leave
  • Reservists’ leave
  • Leave respecting the disappearance of a child
  • Leave respecting the death of a child
  • Leave respecting domestic or sexual violence
  • Bereavement leave
  • Jury duty leave

Employee Responsibilities

Employees simply need to let their employer know when and why they need to take the leave.

Employer Responsibilities

 Pursuant to section 56 of the ESA, during an employee’s leave, the employer must:

  • Continue to make payments to benefit plans
  • Pay any wage or benefit increases the employee would normally receive
  • Continue to calculate annual vacation, termination of employment, pension, or benefits as they normally would

Pursuant to section 54 of the ESA, upon an employee’s return to work after a leave, the employer must NOT:

  • Terminate the employee’s employment
  • Change a condition of the employee’s employment without the employee’s written consent
  • If the employee’s job no longer exists and there is no similar job, the employer can terminate the employee who is ready to return but must be given compensation for length of service based on the last day of employment

Know Your Rights and Responsibilities

Whether you are an employee intending to take a leave of absence or an employer wondering about responsibilities in relation to employees’ leaves, it is important to have effective legal support.

If you need assistance or want to discuss this issue, reach out to us! We want to help.