In November 2017, Ontario passed the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act. The Act increases Ontario’s minimum wage, but it also changes the province’s personal emergency leave rules. Now businesses in the province have to give their employees 10 unpaid personal emergency leave days and two paid personal emergency leave days. You should understand how to implement these standards into your accounting firm and how to help your clients prepare for the changes.
In the past, a lot of the province’s rules for personal leave only affected businesses with more than 50 employees. Under the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, that threshold has been eliminated. Whether you have two clients or 200, you need to follow the new rules.
Personal Emergency Leave
Personal emergency leave refers to any situation where any employee needs to miss work to take care of a personal illness or injury, but it also includes cases where an employee needs to miss work due to the death, illness, or injury of a relative. Eligible relatives include the employee’s spouse or partner, parents, grandparents, children, and grandchildren as well as step and foster parents, grandparents, children, and grandchildren. An employee can take leave due to the death, injury, or illness of a child’s spouse, brother or sister, or any other relative that’s dependent on the child for care or assistance.
On top of that, employees can also take personal emergency leave for urgent matters. For example, if an employee’s babysitter calls in sick, he can take personal emergency leave to take care of his children. If his parents need help because their home was broken into or if his children’s school demands a meeting about behavioural issues, that all falls under the umbrella of personal emergency leave.
Length of Leave
Under the new laws, both full-time and part-time employees get 10 full days of personal emergency leave. You only have to pay employees for the first two days of leave, but you have to give them the remaining leave on request, and you must keep their jobs available for them. The leave accrues every calendar year, and if you hire a new employee in the middle of the year, he gets all 10 days.
When you hire new employees for your firm in Ontario, they are entitled to these benefits almost immediately. During the first week of employment, they can take unpaid personal emergency leave without losing their jobs, and after a week of employment, they are entitled to their paid personal emergency leave.
Ideally, your employees should notify you before they take leave, but under the law, they don’t have to make this notification. If they cannot notify you right away, they just need to contact you as soon as possible. You can request some information to verify the leave was justified, but you need to be careful about the information you request.
Under the new law, you cannot request a note from a qualified health practitioner such as a physician, nurse, or psychologist, but you can request a note from other types of health care providers such as dentists or Chinese medicine practitioners. If one of your firm’s employees takes leave to help an ill or injured family member, you can ask for that person’s name and relationship to the employee, but again, you cannot legally request a note from a qualified medical practitioner.
When your employees take a paid day off for personal emergency leave, you can calculate their pay in a few different ways. If your employees earn an hourly rate and they miss a full or partial day of work, simply multiply the number of hours missed by their hourly rate. For instance, if your employee earns $20 per hour, you have to pay $160 for missing a full eight-hour day of work but only $60 if he misses three hours of work. On the other hand, if your employee is salaried and earns $1,000 per week for a five-day week, his daily rate is $200, and you should pay that amount if he takes a paid day of personal emergency leave.
Other Types of Leave
As an employer, it’s important to note this is only one type of leave. Personal emergency leave is not the same as pregnancy leave, parental leave, family caregiver leave, family medical leave, critical illness leave, organ donor leave, child death leave, crime-related child disappearance leave, reservist leave, or domestic or sexual violence leave. Additionally, the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act also expands leave for employees who are threatened or affected by domestic or sexual violence. You must give these employees up to 17 weeks off if needed. That leave is unpaid, but the employee’s job is protected.
Updating Bookkeeping Practices
If you do your payroll by hand or in a spreadsheet, you need to work out these changes manually. Consider using different codes for each type of leave so you can keep track of how much leave employees have left in each category. If you use payroll software, make sure your software allows you to enter different types of paid and unpaid leave.
Implementing the Changes
Ideally, you want these changes to have as little impact on your business operations as possible. Basically, you need to be prepared to let every employee take an emergency personal day about once a month. You may want to have a temp agency that can supply you with administrative assistants or accounting professionals as needed when your employees have to take emergency leave. You also need to ensure your management and human resources team understand the new rules and don’t make an error such as requesting a doctor’s note.
Ultimately, the new rules are designed to make workplaces fairer for employees. As an employer, you need to understand the rules and be ready to implement them. Failure to follow these rules could lead to a complaint with the Ministry of Labour.