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Bereavement leave

By Yosie Saint-Cyr, LL.B., Managing Editor at HRinfodesk.com---Canadian Payroll and Employment Law News, November 2007

Bereavement leave, sometimes called funeral leave, is time off work to help employees mourn the death of relatives or close friends; which can be a very difficult situation for any employee and other grieving family members. This type of leave can be provided in legislation or though workplace policy or collective agreements. According to our latest HRinfodesk poll, which asked readers, How much bereavement leave are employees entitled to in your organization? The majority of respondents (65.4%) answered that they provided three to four days off work for bereavement leave.

Below is a breakdown of the results of the poll and commentary on the topic of bereavement leave including legislative requirements by jurisdiction and policy considerations.

Overview on legal requirements

Bereavement leave is legislated in the majority of Canadian jurisdictions. According to the HRSDC, bereavement leave normally serves two purposes, giving an employee time to attend a funeral service (i.e. fulfilling ceremonial obligations) and to mourn the loss of a loved one. This partly explains the variable duration of bereavement leave in many collective agreements, according to the relative proximity of the deceased to the employee.

The majority of collective agreements across Canada usually provide an employee with three to five days of bereavement leave. However, some agreements grant more generous leave or take into account other factors such as travel distance or religious observance.

Typically, legislation provides three to five days of unpaid protected leave per year or a combination of both paid and unpaid days. Specifically, New Brunswick, Yukon, Saskatchewan, Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Manitoba, and the federal jurisdiction have statutory requirement in employment standards legislation for bereavement leave.

In the Northwest Territories Bill 14 received third reading and passed on August 17, 2007. It is now awaiting Royal Assent and will provide employees with bereavement leave without pay to attend a funeral or memorial service of a “family member.” The period of bereavement leave is: three days if the funeral or memorial service takes place in the community where the employee resides; and seven days in all other cases. There is no limit on the number of times an employee can take bereavement leave.

Although Ontario does not provide bereavement leave, it does so indirectly for employees who work in companies who regularly employ 50 or more employees under personal emergency leave. Ontario personal emergency leave is unpaid, job-protected leave of up to 10 days each year. It may be taken in the case of a personal illness, injury or medical emergency, or a death, illness, injury, medical emergency of, or urgent matter relating to, certain relatives.

Alberta, and Nunavut do not have any statutory requirement in employment standards legislation for bereavement leave. In jurisdictions without this legislated “bereavement leave,” the decision to grant time off or not is left to the employer.

The entitlement to bereavement leave is not an annual entitlement. If an employee suffers more than one death in the family in one year, he or she would be entitled to bereavement leave for each of those deaths.

Here is a comparative table on general bereavement leave requirements by jurisdiction. However, for more specific information, please refer to your jurisdiction in the HRinfodesk Library, under Benefits, under Bereavement Leave. You should also refer to the legislation and accompanying regulation.

Jurisdictions

Duration and entitlement

Qualification

Definition of family

Other requirements

Federal

Up to 3 days of paid leave on the death of employee's immediate family

Continuously employed for three consecutive months when the leave begins. Employees without the necessary continuous employment are entitled to leave without pay.

Spouse or common-law partner

Parents or guardians of the employee and his or her spouse or common-law partner

In-laws of the employee and his or her spouse or common-law partner

Siblings

Children

Grandparents and grandchildren of the employee and his or her spouse or common-law partner

Children of the employee's spouse or common-law partner.

And, anyone who lives with the employee as a member of his or her family.

An employee returning from bereavement leave is entitled to resume work without any change in the nature of his or her employment.

Alberta

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

British Columbia

Up to 3 days of unpaid leave on the death of employee's immediate family

There is no minimum period of work to qualify

Immediate family includes the employee's grandparents, parents or guardians, siblings, spouse, children, and grandchildren, and anyone who lives with the employee as a member of his or her family.

These three unpaid days do not have to be taken consecutively, or start on the date of death.

The employee must be returned to their same/comparable position after

the employee can not be terminated while on leave

Manitoba

Up to 3 days of unpaid leave on the death of employee's family member

Employed for at least 30 days with the same employer.

a spouse or common-law partner of the employee;

a child of the employee or a child of the employee's spouse or common-law partner;

a parent of the employee or a spouse or common-law partner of the parent;

a brother, sister, step-brother, step-sister of the employee or the employee's spouse or common-law partner;

uncle or aunt of the employee or the employee's spouse or common-law partner;

nephew or niece of the employee or the employee's spouse or common-law partner;

grandchild or grandparent of the employee or the employee's spouse or common-law partner;

a parent of the employee or the employee's spouse or common-law partner;

a current or former foster parent of the employee or the employee's spouse or common-law partner;

a current or former foster child, ward, or guardian of the employee or the employee's spouse or common-law partner;

the spouse or common-law partner of a person mentioned above;

any other person whom the employee considers to be like a close relative, whether or not they are related by blood, adoption, marriage, or common-law relationship.

any other person who is a member of a class of persons prescribed in the regulations for the purpose of this definition.

Before taking the leave, the employee must give the employer notice of the amount and timing of the leave to be taken and of the death to which it relates. If requested by the employer, the employee must also provide evidence of the entitlement to the leave.

Employers cannot terminate or lay off employees solely because they have requested a leave. Employees must be allowed to return to their job.

Employers must not discriminate or attempt to punish employees for taking a leave.

New Brunswick

Up to 5 days of unpaid leave in the event of the death of a person in a close family relationship with the employee

There is no minimum period of work to qualify

People considered immediate family include the employee's grandparents, parents or guardians, siblings, spouse, children, and grandchildren, and anyone who lives with the employee as a member of his or her family such as a common law or same-sex partner.

The leave begins the day of the funeral. A funeral includes a memorial service.

The employee must be returned to their same/comparable position after

the employee can not be dismissed, suspended or laid off during due to the leave during or after it

Newfoundland and Labrador

If the employee has been employed for 30 days they are entitled to 1 day off with pay and 2 days off without pay on the death of a spouse, child, grandchild, mother, father, brother, sister (including in-laws)

if the employee has been employed less than thirty days they are entitled to 2 days without pay on the death of a relative referred to above

Employee must have at least one month of employment

People considered immediate family include the employee's grandparents, parents or guardians, in-laws, siblings, sibling in-laws, spouse, children, and grandchildren.

An employee returning from bereavement leave is entitled to resume his or her job without any change in the nature of his or her employment.

Employee cannot be dismissed due to the leave

Nova Scotia

an employee can take unpaid leave of up to 3 days in a row

they may take unpaid leave of 1 day if the death is of a grandparent, grandchild, sister, brother, or in-law

There is no minimum period of work to qualify

People considered immediate family include the employee's parents or guardians, children or wards, and spouse.

An employee returning from bereavement leave is entitled to resume his or her job without any change in the nature of his or her employment.

Northwest Territories

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

Nunavut

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

Ontario

In Ontario, bereavement leave is not legislated. However, entitlement to leave because of the death of a family member is legislated under the Employment Standards Act, Personal Emergency Leave provision.

The employer provides up to 10 unpaid days off work each year without any risk of job loss.

Employees must work in a company that regularly employs at least 50 employees; some exclusions exist

A family member is defined broadly enough to cover most close relationships. People considered immediate family include the employee's grandparents, parents or guardians, step-parents or foster parents, siblings, spouse or common-law or same-sex partner, children, step-children, foster-children, and anyone who lives with the employee and is dependant on the employee for care or assistance.

Emergency leave does not stop an employer from having a separate bereavement policy above and beyond ESA personal emergency leave

PEI

An employee is entitled to an unpaid leave up to 3 days on the death of a member of the employee's immediate family.

An employee is entitled to an unpaid leave of absence of one day on the death of a member of the employee's extended family.

There is no minimum period of work to qualify

People considered immediate family includes the spouse, common-law spouse, child, parent, brother or sister of the employee.

Extended family includes grandparent, grandchild, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, mother-in-law, father-in-law, son-in-law or daughter-in-law of the employee.

The leave begins the day of the funeral. The employee is required to advise the employer of the first and last day of the leave.

Quebec

One paid day off and four unpaid days off if a member of the employee's immediate family dies and is buried on a working day.

The employer must also grant an employee one unpaid day off if a member of the employee's extended family dies and is buried on a working day.

There is no minimum period of work to qualify

People considered immediate family includes the employee's spouse, common law partner, parents or guardians, siblings, and children.

People considered extended family includes grandparents, grandchildren, in-laws, and sibling in-laws.

An employee returning from bereavement leave is entitled to resume his or her job without any change in the nature of his or her employment.

Saskatchewan

Up to 5 days unpaid leave if a member of the employee's immediate family

Three months of employment

People considered immediate family include the employee's grandparents, parents or guardians, siblings, spouse, common law partner (who have lived together for the last two years,) in-laws, children, and grandchildren, and anyone who lives with the employee as a member of his or her family.

The leave must be taken the week before or after the funeral.

An employee returning from bereavement leave is entitled to resume his or her job without any change in the nature of his or her employment.

Yukon

Employee is entitled to 7 days (one week) of unpaid leave in the event of the death of member of the immediate family.

If an employee is not a family member but is named by the family of a deceased member belonging to the First Nation to care for the funeral arrangements, that employee is entitled to bereavement leave.

There is no minimum period of work to qualify

People considered immediate family has been expanded to include:

Spouse;

Parent;

Step-mother, step-father;

Child, including a child to whom the employee stands in the place of parent;

Brother, sister;

Father of a spouse, mother of a spouse;

Grandparent, grandchild;

Son-in-law, daughter- in-law;

Any relative permanently residing in the employee's household or with whom the employee resides;

Step-parent-in-law of the employee;

Uncle, aunt, niece or nephew of the employee or of the employees spouse or common law partner;

Step-sibling of the employee

Step-sibling-in-law of the employee;

Sibling-in-law or step-sibling-in-law of the employee;

Current or former foster parent, foster child, ward or guardian of the employee;

Spouse or common law partner of a child, grandparent, grandchild, uncle, aunt, niece, nephew, current or former guardian or current or former foster child of the employee;

Step-child-in-law of the employee;

Current or former foster parent or ward of the employee's spouse or common law partner;

A person who considers the employee to be, or whom the employee considers to be, “like a close relative”.

An employee returning from bereavement leave is entitled to resume his or her job without any change in the nature of his or her employment.

Policy considerations

How employers in jurisdictions without legislated bereavement leave accommodate the need of an employee after a death in the employee's family depends a lot on how many employees the business has and how easy it is for the business to juggle workplace schedules. But, most of all, an employer's response is determined by the nature of its relationship with its employees and the prevailing workplace culture.

Employers in jurisdictions without legislated bereavement leave sometimes look to the legislation of other provinces for guidance, and then adopt the provisions of that legislation on a company-wide or case-by-case basis. At present, most of those employers follow the usual legislated practice of allowing an employee three paid or unpaid days off work if the deceased is a member of the employee's immediate family, meaning a grandparent, parent, guardian, siblings, spouse, in-laws, or grandchild, or anyone who lives with the employee as a member of his or her family.

Once an employer has granted an employee bereavement leave, it must keep the employee's job open for him or her, without any change in the nature of his or her employment. It is advisable for employers to have a written document that details how the employer's bereavement leave policy operates, including the circumstances under which leave is permitted. This reduces the likelihood of employees misunderstanding what they are entitled to.

Each employer needs to consider costs and decide whether they can offer a paid, partially paid or unpaid bereavement leave.

A bereavement leave clause in a workplace policy or collective agreement allows a person to take time to grieve the passing of a relative in their immediate family. Employers typically offer a leave that ranges in time from 1 day to 5 days, often with a combination of paid and unpaid leave. Some clauses allow leaves in the 3 to 5 day range for parents, spouses and children and shorter periods for grandparents, siblings and in-laws.

There should be no limit on the number of times an employee can take bereavement leave. If an employee suffers more than one death in the family in one year, he or she would be entitled to bereavement leave for each of those deaths.

By setting the amount of bereavement leave at three and seven days, an employer can expect that certain employees will avail themselves of that much leave regardless of the amount of grief that they are suffering.



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