Family Days at work

If there is one section of Labour Law that causes outcries and vexing accusations from both employer and employee, then (Family responsibility leave) Section 52 (a) & (b) of the BC Employment Standards Act would be it. I have personally talked to employers of many industries, sizes and fields; and heard one common thread of their side if this argument: “This act prevents us from doing business.” The uneasy part is, both sides lost the intent or nature of what this legislation is to provide for workers and employers alike.

Employees who first heard of this “leave” were ecstatic, but for the wrong reasons in my opinion, because most really did not qualify nor met the requisite of either part (a) or (b). They seemed to of abused this section for their own pleasure and self gratification, not for what it was intended for. Many drew their own misconceptions about the Family Day Leave and justified it for their own discretion. However, it was not long after the Act was amended that the Employment Standards Tribunal started getting cases of employers who terminated the employment of their employees for unauthorized absenteeism or leave without notice. In 1997, the tribunal started seeing a increasing number of cases appealed because of the “loose wording” of Sec. 52, (a) (b).

The Family day, was to give mostly women and family caregivers a means to care for their families without loosing their employment because of emergencies and family responsibilities. The guidelines were to give each employee in a year, 5 unpaid days under law in which to care for their families in unexpected circumstances. The Act clearly states that this is not a privilege of the employer to grant, but rather an entitlement of the employee to use in these circumstances.

Today, some five years later, employers still feel “hampered” by Sec. 52. As our labour market continues to shifts, change, and flux, new employees are drawn into this ever increasing demand on their time and skills as the labour market is asking more and more of them. However, government must draw a balance between the two and see needs and social responsibilities addressed in this ever changing market. Employers are too quick to only satisfy their needs: the bottom line, as apposed to the employee who is the “human element” where family and responsibilities often compete for their time and energy.

The best place to start looking for the answers and requirements of Sec. 52 (a) (b), one should first start at the Employment Standards Interpretation Guidelines Manual to see what the actual requirements are. Secondly, one should also do a search on relevant case law, to see the most recent rulings and standards set out by the courts.

It should also be noted that here, in British Columbia, under the Liberal government, we may be going into a state a devolution as they seem to of align themselves as right winged; pertaining to business and labour issues. This pro labour stance has cause many Unions and Labour groups to take a cautious approach to these types of issue.

The case pressident is John Dale and Fiona Dale, a partnership doing business under the firm name Windsor Holdings; (B.C. EST #D495/97), a reconsideration of B.C. EST #D187/97, from which a detailed account of the Director’s policy is in this matter.

For myself, I encourage all to read for themselves and understand the requirements of their workplace. It is not enough to take for granted the policy offered by your employer, but your responsibility to understand the law governing the workplace and to act upon it.

Employment Standards Tribunal

Interpretation Guidelines Manual (family leave)

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