B.C. changes parental leave regulations


B.C. is moving its parental leave laws to coincide with recently announced federal changes.

The changes will allow mothers to start their maternity leave as early as 13 weeks before the expected birth date, up from the current 11 weeks. New parents will also have the option to take a longer unpaid parental leave to care for their new child — resulting in a total of up to 18 months of leave for birth mothers — while ensuring job protection. These changes align B.C.’s leave provisions with federal employment insurance (EI) benefits.

Parents who face life’s most difficult circumstances, which may require extended absence from their jobs, will now have additional supports. In addition to the extended maternity and parental leave amendments, the province introduced a new unpaid, job-protected leave of up to 52 weeks to help if a worker’s child is missing as a result of a crime. Currently, there is no provision in B.C. for parents to take a leave from work in the event their child is missing.

In addition, the province will introduce a new unpaid leave providing job protection for parents dealing with the death of a child. This leave will provide up to 104 weeks if a worker’s child under 19 years of age dies under any circumstances — a significant addition to the three days of unpaid “bereavement leave” currently available. B.C. will join Ontario as the only provinces to offer job protection after a child’s death for any reason.

Further, the amendments to compassionate care leave will more than triple the length of leave, from eight weeks to 27 weeks. This is available to an employee who must care for a family member who is terminally ill.

The changes will ensure B.C.’s employment standards for these five special work absences are at least as good, if not better, than those offered by other jurisdictions in Canada. They will also enable eligible British Columbians to access full EI maternity, parental and compassionate care benefits without jeopardizing their job.