Yesterday in the BC Legislature we debated Bill 6 – Employment Standards Amendment Act, 2018 at second reading. This bill provides new, extended and more flexible maternity, parental and compassionate care leave provisions that would meet or beat standards set across Canada.
Below is the text and video of my short speech.
A. Weaver: I, too, rise in support of Bill 6, Employment Standards Amendment Act, which makes a number of substantive amendments to the existing Employment Standards Act — in particular, with respect to issues of compassionate leave, paternity leave, maternity leave, family leave, as well as matching these with federal legislation that was passed late last year, in November, I believe it was.
In fact, one of the things that happens, as this bill is being debated and discussed, is that we’re proposing here to mirror the federal legislation, which essentially extends employment insurance benefits to those with newly adopted children or parents of newborns from 12 months to an extended 18 months. They’re allowed to have their EI benefits.
B.C., by passing this legislation, would ensure that not only federal employees that are subject exclusively to the federal legislation but also in British Columbia, here, we would be protected both for job security and be eligible to be part of this extended EI. It doesn’t actually give people more money. It allows families to determine if they wish to take the amount of money that would be spent and just distribute it over a longer period.
Some have actually criticized the federal legislation, which we’re proposing to adopt here, by arguing that it is not doing enough to actually support new families by not providing additional resources. Nevertheless, I would argue that’s an EI issue and a federal issue and not one in the purview of our jurisdiction here. So I think it’s important that we actually do follow the federal lead in this area.
One of the most important changes, of course, in this legislation is the additions that are truly provincial with respect to extending the amount of leave that is eligible for those whose child, most unfortunately, happened to be taken away in an incident. My colleague and friend, the Minister of Education and the MLA for Victoria–Swan Lake knows the Dunahee case here, a very famous case here in Victoria. And I’m sure such leave…. I can only imagine the hurt that the parents of Michael went through and continue to go through. But were such leave available to them at the time, I think it would have been very beneficial. Hopefully, nobody needs to claim this benefit. I’m sure that’s the hope of all of those in this House, but it’s critical that it be there for those who do need it.
The amendments to compassionate care leave are triple the length of the leave, from eight to 27 weeks — again, a very important addition.
In terms of the other issue…. Heaven forbid. I can only imagine the loss of a child, and it would be something that would be devastating to any family. To give extended leave, protected leave, job security on that leave, over an extended period of time to parents whose child under the age of 19 were to be tragically lost is the sign of a government that recognizes the importance of putting families first, of being there for families to support them in their times of greatest need.
I applaud government and, in particular, the minister who brought this piece of legislation forward.
Other highlights within this piece of legislation, of course, are that maternity leave can start two weeks earlier, 13 weeks prior to the due date rather than 11 weeks, and that it can go longer after birth, where the employee requests leave after birth, from 17 weeks rather than six weeks. It also increases leave from 37 weeks to 62 weeks for adoptive parents and allows that leave to start no later than 78 weeks after the child is born, instead of no later than 52 weeks after the child is placed with the parents.
There are many, many reasons why this bill, I’m sure, will be passed and wholeheartedly supported by all sides of this House. The fact that it doubles unpaid leave time is important. It doesn’t address the financial barriers, the affordability issue for parents who have to spread out the benefits over a longer period of time, and I look forward to the government continuing to develop and implement its strategy to deal with the affordability crisis here in B.C.
I’m not sure whether this bill actually has provisions to deal with stillbirths or miscarriages. I would seek to ask the minister, during committee stage, whether, in fact, the bill, as constructed, does recognize stillbirths or late-term miscarriages as grounds for leave, based on the fact that death of child might be considered there, where, here, the child was born, in the case of a stillbirth, sadly, dead on birth or, in a late-term miscarriage, sadly.
I mean, we all know people who have had a traumatic effect on their lives, and perhaps government might be open to thinking about that over the coming days — about whether (a) this is dealt with in the legislation or (b) if, in fact, changes need to be amended or added to account for that.
With that, I have spoken with my colleague from Saanich North and the Islands and also my colleague from Cowichan Valley, neither of whom will speak to this bill. We collectively support this bill and look forward to bringing it forward in legislation.