New Year, New Rules: Changes to Certain Family-Related Leaves of Absence to Take Effect January 2021

Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP
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Quebec’s National Assembly recently enacted Bill 51, An Act mainly to improve the flexibility of the parental insurance plan in order to promote family-work balance (Act). The Act promotes family-work balance and the sharing of family responsibilities between parents, and amends several provisions of Quebec’s Act respecting Labour Standards (ALS), which will enter into force on January 1, 2021 (except for the change relating to the division of leaves).

CHANGES TO THE ACT RESPECTING LABOUR STANDARDS

Parental Leave

Currently, maternity, paternity or parental leave can be divided into weeks at the employee’s request if the child is hospitalized or if the employee is eligible for certain other job-protected leaves as specified in section 81.14.1 of the ALS (e.g., sick leave, caregiver leave, etc.) and the employer consents. The Act provides that the employer will no longer be able to deny the employee’s request to break down the leave under these circumstances.
 
The Act also adds a paragraph to section 81.14.1 of the ALS whereby paternity or parental leaves can, more generally (i.e., in circumstances other than the ones referred to above), be broken down into weeks upon the employee’s request and with the employer’s consent.
 
Furthermore, parental leave must end no later than 70 weeks after the birth or, in the case of adoption, 70 weeks after the child has been entrusted to the parent or parents’ care. For the parent of a child born or adopted on, or after, January 1, 2021, the time window for taking said leave is extended to 78 weeks. 

Paternity Leave

Paternity leave must currently end no later than 52 weeks after the week of the child’s birth. For a birth occurring on or after January 1, 2021, the leave can end up to 78 weeks after the week of the birth. 

Maternity Leave

For a birth occurring on or after January 1, 2021, the maternity leave can end up to 20 weeks after the week of delivery, the current limit being 18 weeks. 

Special Maternity Leave

In the event of termination of a pregnancy in, or after, the 20th week, the employee is currently entitled to a special maternity leave without pay for a maximum of 18 consecutive weeks starting from the week of the event. For interruptions of pregnancy occurring on or after January 1, 2021, the time window for taking said leave is increased to 20 weeks after the week of the event.

Division of Leaves

Currently, maternity, paternity or parental leave may be divided into weeks at the employee’s request if the child is hospitalized or if the employee is eligible for certain other job-protected leaves as specified in section 81.14.1 of the ALS (e.g., sick leave, caregiver leave, etc.). The Act provides that the division of these leaves is no longer a faculty.
 
The Act also adds a paragraph to section 81.14.1 of the ALS whereby paternity or parental leaves are generally divided into weeks upon the employee’s request and with the employer’s consent.

TAKEAWAY

Given these changes, provincially regulated employers should conduct a review of their employee handbooks and leave policies to ensure compliance with the amended ALS provisions.
 
The Act also implements certain changes to the Act respecting parental insurance, some of which are already in effect. For information regarding these changes, please visit the Quebec Parental Insurance Plan’s website.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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