Maternity/Parental Leave and Vacation Accrual

You have an employee going off on maternity and parental leave shortly and she has asked if she gets her full allotment of vacation paid out for the time period she is on leave.  In Ontario, vacation continues to accrue during any protected leave of absence such as maternity and parental leave; however, there is a difference between Vacation Time and Vacation Pay which I will explain below.  Whether that vacation is paid out or not depends on an employee’s employment contract.

Vacation Accrual

In Ontario, employees continue to accrue vacation time when they are on a protected leave of absence, just as they continue to accrue service credits and seniority during the leave.  A protected leave of absence is one in which the employee’s job is protected while they are away, and the employer is required by law to provide the same or similar job upon the employee’s return from the leave.

Vacation Time vs Vacation Pay

While your employee is away on maternity/parental leave, she is earning vacation time.  However, the vacation pay she earns will be determined by what is stated in her employment contract.  If her contract states that she will receive 4% vacation pay based on hours worked, then your employee will not have earned vacation pay during her maternity leave, only vacation time.  If, however, the contract says she will earn two weeks of paid vacation on an annual basis, then she will earn two weeks of paid vacation while away on a one year maternity/parental leave, regardless of the hours worked that year.  The employer will then owe her both vacation time and vacation pay in that instance.

Using the Earned Vacation Time

Ontario’s Employment Standards Act (ESA) states that If the deadline under the ESA for taking a vacation comes up when an employee is on pregnancy, parental, family medical, organ donor, personal emergency, declared emergency, or reservist leave, the vacation must be taken when the leave ends or at a later date with the agreement (in writing) of the employer and the employee.”   For most business operations, it is much simpler to have your employee use up her vacation time prior to returning to work, rather than have her take it at a later time, as you already have a person trained to do her job on the ground who has been doing it for the year or more while she has been away.

In the case of a salaried employee, this would mean coding her as being an active employee the day after her leave has ended, such that she is back on payroll, but she does not return to work until her accrued vacation balance has been used up.  For an employee who receives only the vacation time but has to have worked the hours in order to earn the 4% vacation pay, you would have her take her earned vacation time as unpaid leave until it has been used up.

Many provincial jurisdictions and the federal Canada Labour Code have similar employment standards when it comes to accrual of vacation under protected leaves of absence.  However, provinces such as Alberta do not allow for accrual during leaves of absence.  It’s important to check the pertinent employment standards for the province(s) in which your business operates.

Need help keeping track of vacations and a streamlined online method for requesting and approving employee vacation requests?  Give us a call to see how SymphonyHR can help your Human Capital Management and book your free demo today!

Coping with Employee Mental Health Issues

A growing trend we are noticing is how often the illness is attributable to mental health.  Many managers feel they don’t have the right tools or experience to deal with these issues.   And because of the very real stigma associated with mental health issues, many employees do not open up to their managers about the challenges they are facing that oftentimes spill out into their performance at work.

According to CAMH, the incidence of mental illness in Canada is estimated at 1 in every 5 Canadians, or 20% of the population.  If you include how many Canadians are indirectly affected by mental illness via friends and family this number skyrockets to 100%.  From a cost perspective, it is estimated that the economic burden of mental illness in Canada is $51 billion per year.

Given the above statistics, it is very likely that at some point in your career you will either deal with a mental health issue yourself or have someone in your organization that is coping with it.  Here are a few tips to help you broach this delicate topic with an employee who may be struggling at work and whom you suspect may be dealing with a mental health issue.

1.  Observe

Before talking to your employee, ensure you have spent enough time observing their day-to-day behaviour and performance.  You want to be able to have a constructive conversation that is centred on facts and the effect the behaviour is having on her performance and co-workers.

2.  Prepare

Make sure you are prepared for your conversation.  Use all the data from your observations and put together talking points and practice prior to the meeting (you can role play with another manager if it will be helpful).  It may be an emotional meeting, so ensure you have a room with privacy, tissues in the room.  If your company has an EAP (Employee Assistance Program), that your employee can tap into for additional help and counselling, have that information handy for your meeting as well.

3.  Meet and Ask

Go through your observations with your employee.  Get their input and feedback as well.  If they don’t volunteer right away that they may be struggling with an issue, ask in a very compassionate and respectful manner whether there is anything in their personal life that is impacting their performance at work.  Sometimes that is enough for an employee to open up about any struggles they may be having.  This would be a good time to bring up the EAP service and encourage them to access it.  Let them know that you are there to support them.

4.  Repeat

Realize that you may have to go through this process several times to get to the bottom of the issue.  If you are truly concerned for your employee’s health and safety or that of his/her co-workers, you can suggest they make an appointment with their doctor.

This is just the tip of the iceberg in dealing with such a complex issue.  The first step is always to ask your employee if there’s anything that you’re not aware of that is hampering their ability to be successful at work.  Once you have more information, it is easier to make a game plan both for the business and for the health of your employee.

I will leave you with a link to a very powerful YouTube video clip called the Gestalt Project  that highlights some of the stigma around mental health; this was shown at a recent seminar on Mental Health in the Workplace via Bernardi HR Law.  If you have 4 mins to spare I highly encourage you to view it.  It will help provide perspective so you can approach this type of conversation with compassion.

Have you had to deal with mental health issues at work?