Changes to Bereavement Leave for Federally Regulated Employers

Starting September 29, 2021, federally regulated employers will have new obligations regarding bereavement leave for employees under the Canada Labour Code (the “Code”).

Bill C-220, An Act to Amend the Canada Labour Code (bereavement leave), SC 2021, c 17, received Royal Assent on June 29, 2021, and comes into force on September 29, 2021. Bill C-220 expands the time frame and circumstances in which employers must grant bereavement leave to employees.

Currently, an employee is entitled to bereavement leave of up to five days in the event of the death of an immediate family member. For employees employed for at least three consecutive months, the first three days of leave are with pay.

Bill C-220 introduces new parameters to extend the permitted leave from the five-day maximum to 10 days of leave. Employees must take the leave within six weeks of the funeral, burial or memorial service. The more substantial change to the Code’s bereavement leave provision expands an employee’s entitlement to leave based on their relationship to the family member.

The amended provision recognizes bereavement for the death of an immediate family member, and also for the death of a family member the employee is already caring for on compassionate care leave or leave related to critical illness pursuant to the Code.

  • Compassionate care leave is a leave of absence from employment to provide care or support to a family member who has a serious medical condition with a significant risk of death within six months.
  • Leave related to critical illness is a leave of absence to care for or support a critically ill child or adult family member.

The definition of “family member” captured under compassionate care and critical illness leaves of absence is extensive, and comes from the Employment Insurance Regulations, SOR/96-332. “Family member” includes a spouse or common-law partner, child, sibling, parent, grandparent, parent- or grandparent-in-law, uncle or aunt, niece or nephew, foster parent or child. The legislation also provides “a person, whether or not related to the individual by marriage, common-law partnership or any legal parent-child relationship, whom the individual considers to be like a close relative or who considers the individual to be like a close relative.”

Starting on September 29, 2021, an employee can take bereavement leave for all family members who fall under this broad definition as long as the employee is on compassionate care or critical illness leave to care for the individual at the time of death.

The three days of paid bereavement leave for employees with at least three consecutive months of employment with the employer will remain unchanged.

Employers considering how the upcoming change to the federal bereavement leave obligations will affect their workplace policies should contact a member of our labour and employment team.

Note: This article is of a general nature only and is not exhaustive of all possible legal rights or remedies. In addition, laws may change over time and should be interpreted only in the context of particular circumstances such that these materials are not intended to be relied upon or taken as legal advice or opinion. Readers should consult a legal professional for specific advice in any particular situation.