There have been some major changes made to Canadian business legislation with the passing of Bill 148: Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs, 2017 last November. Minimum wages have increased, statutory holiday pay is now calculated differently, and assignment termination now requires employers give one week’s notice to their employees. One of the most significant and complex of the amendments staffing agencies need to know regards personal leave entitlement.
Bill 148 has expanded and revised the parameters of PEL entitlement, resulting in a greater need to examine “reasonable within the circumstances” evidence and clarify what specific events are urgent or non-urgent. If you want a primer for the most significant amendments to PEL and a way for staffing firms to maintain PEL compliance, read on.
All Ontario Employees Are Entitled to PEL
Pre-Bill 148, not all your staffing agency’s employees were entitled to PEL. They were only entitled if they worked at a company that employed more than 50 employees. PEL was also unpaid. Now, all Ontario employees are entitled to 10 PEL days in a calendar year when they have worked for more than a week for their employer. Two of these PEL days are paid, calculated according to the usual wages they would’ve made for those days (or half-days depending on the individual case of absence).
With the advent of this amendment, staffing firms will need to be vigilant about tracking PEL days and properly calculating wages for paid PEL days. If you’ve been researching back office solutions for this sort of administration, consider that The Staffing Edge has updated its award-winning software for this purpose.
You need to have a solution like StaffTrak to bolster your ability to track PEL days seamlessly; otherwise, you risk compromising your staffing firm’s compliance.
Prohibition on Health Certificates
Perhaps the most controversial change to PEL entitlement is the prohibition on health certificates as “reasonable in the circumstances” evidence. “Reasonable in the circumstances” evidence is any proof of why PEL was taken that helps balance the rights of an employer with the rights of an employee.
Previous to Bill 148, employers could ask for a health certificate from a physician, registered nurse, or psychologist, otherwise known as a “qualified health practitioner.” Now, employees are no longer required to produce such documentation unless the situation falls outside PEL circumstances and will help a staffing firm or employer accommodate them or fulfill return-to-work obligations.
Understandably, there’s trepidation among staffing agencies that there will be a sharp increase in PEL days taken with this prohibition in effect.
Guidance for PEL Amendments
What hasn’t changed about PEL entitlement is that employees can claim it for personal illness, injury or medical emergency; or death, illness, or medical emergency of specified family members. The new amendments to PEL are more about ensuring the harmonious interactions between employer and employee during emergency situations so that provisions are used in a productive and compliant manner.
For instance, while you cannot request information about an employee’s diagnosis or treatment of a medical condition, you may need information regarding specific relatives and their relationship to the employee. As well, you may need a statement or a copy of an obituary regarding injury, illness, or death of specific relatives.
The Ministry of Labour is aware there’s a lot for staffing agencies and employers to get used to with the PEL amendments and what counts as “reasonable in the circumstances” evidence. Together with other concerns regarding other amendments, they have created a guide to the new Employment Standards Act as a result.
Running a successful staffing firm can be a challenge, but you don’t have to shoulder the burden alone. Consider partnering with a back office solutions provider to ensure your PEL compliance is met.