Changes to the Employment Standards Act - Pregnancy, Parental and Compassionate Care Leaves 

On April 9, 2018, the BC government introduced changes to the BC Employment Standards Act (ESA) through Bill 6 which was then passed by the BC Legislature on April 12, 2018.  These changes to the ESA came into effect on May 17, 2018, following changes to federal Employment Insurance (EI) provisions made December 3, 2017.  Changes to the ESA address pregnancy and parental leave benefits, compassionate care leave, and leaves pertaining to the death or loss of a child. Specific changes include the following:

Pregnancy Leave (Section 50) 

  • A pregnant employee may take up to 17 consecutive weeks of unpaid pregnancy leave and will now be able to begin this leave up to 13 weeks before the expected date of birth.  This is increased from 11 weeks. Pregnancy leave begins no later than the actual birth date and ends no later than 17 weeks after that date.

Parental Leave (Section 51)

  • New mothers are now entitled to take up to 61 consecutive weeks of unpaid parental leave immediately following their 17-week pregnancy leave.  This combined entitlement period has been increased from a previous maximum of 52 weeks (12 months) to 78 weeks (18 months).  Extended parental leave benefits are also applicable to birth mothers who do not take parental leave, adopting parents and non-birth partners who are now entitled to up to 62 consecutive weeks of unpaid leave which must begin within 78 weeks of the child’s birth or the date the child is placed with the parent.

Compassionate Care Leave (Section 52.1)

  • Employees will now be able to take up to 27 weeks of unpaid compassionate care leave, within a 52 week period, to care for a gravely ill family member.  This entitlement has been increased from 8 weeks.

It is the intention of the University to allow employees to take the extended pregnancy, parental and compassionate leaves.  Changes to ESA leave provisions will not impact the maximum entitlement to leave reimbursement for which employees are eligible.  Reimbursement will remain at the current agreed levels.

Employees who have been approved to take extended periods of pregnancy and/or parental leaves will have the option to maintain benefit coverage for the duration of their leave provided that they make arrangements to pay the appropriate portion of their benefit premiums prior to commencing the leave. 

If you are already on leave, or have already applied for leave, as of May 17, 2018, you may be eligible for the extended ESA provisions noted above: please consult your HR Advisor for more information.  Should you wish to extend or modify your period of pregnancy or parental leave, please be mindful of the applicable notice requirements within your Collective Agreement or policy.