Employee leaves of absence

At times, events in your employees’ personal lives may necessitate that they take a leave from work.  Part 6 of the Employment Standards Act gives employees the right to take certain leaves from employment, and governs how you must deal with the employee when they take leave.

The types of employee leave allowed under the Act are:

  • Maternity leave
  • Parental leave
  • Family responsibility leave
  • Compassionate care leave
  • Critical illness or injury leave
  • Reservists’ leave
  • Leave respecting disappearance of child
  • Leave respecting death of child
  • Leave respecting domestic or sexual violence
  • Bereavement leave
  • Leave for jury duty

Under Section 56 of the Act, an employee who takes leave under the Act is entitled to be treated as if their employment is continuous during the leave.  This means the employee accrues vacation pay, length of service for purposes of calculating severance pay.  In some circumstances, they are entitled to continue on certain benefits plans paid for by the employer.

The employee’s employment must not be terminated, or the terms changed without their written consent, while they are on leave under the Act.  Under Section 54 of the Act, as soon as the employee’s leave ends, they must be put back into the position they occupied before the leave, or a comparable position.  Often what is “comparable” is debated by the employee, so it is important to obtain legal advice before changing any terms of the employee’s employment while they are on leave.  If the employee is on maternity, parental, or critical illness or injury leave and their employment changes or is terminated during the leave, this may be treated as discrimination under the British Columbia Human Rights Code.

An employee who takes leave under the Act is not entitled to be paid during their leave.  The employer may choose to pay them some or all of their wage during their leave, but this is not required by the Employment Standards Act.

The information provided on this page is a general overview of the employee leave of absence rules set out in the BC Employment Standards Act.  It should not be taken as legal advice.  For answers to specific questions about your workplace obligations, contact EmployRight and speak with one of our employment lawyers.