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?

Employee Appreciation

Showing appreciation to your employees doesn’t have to be a big ordeal or a huge production.  In fact, a little can go a long way.  People inherently want to know they’re doing a good job, so if one of your employees has done a great job – let them know.

Administrative Professionals’ Week is fast approaching (April 19th to 25th, 2015). This week, and specifically Administrative Professionals’ Day on Wednesday April 22nd, recognizes the work of administrative assistants, receptionists, secretaries and other administrative support professionals.  There are approximately 475, 000 administrative assistants in Canada, and this week is a great time to recognize their efforts.  In fact, not doing so would be a mistake.

Typically, administrative professionals are bestowed with cards, gift certificates, flowers, gift baskets or lunches.  It’s a tradition that goes back to 1952 and has been adopted worldwide.

Last month marked Employee Appreciation Day (March 6th). However, showing your employees appreciation shouldn’t be reserved for one day a year or over the course of a given week: it should be frequent.

In her article ‘10 Ways to Show Appreciation to Employees’, Susan M. Heathfield encourages telling colleagues, coworkers and employees that you value their contributions any day of the year.   Her suggestions include saying thank you and praising their achievement, bringing in treats to the office or, if your budget allows it, small gifts or monetary rewards.  Heathfield points out that employee appreciation, through recognition, increases motivation and creates a positive, more productive workplace.

The next time someone does a great job at work, don’t hesitate to send them a quick email saying “Thank you.  You did a fantastic job”.  I guarantee it will make them feel appreciated.

Are Your Employees Saving Enough for Retirement?

Ontario has a retirement savings problem. Approximately ¼ to 1/3 of Ontarians are not adequately saving for retirement and almost 1.3 million Ontarian workers do not have access to workplace pension plans. Businesses overwhelmingly agree that this problem needs to be addressed, with 72% of Ontario businesses indicating in a recent Ontario Chamber of Commerce survey that they believed pension reform should be a priority of government.

The Ontario government has introduced legislation for an Ontario Registered Pension Plan (ORPP) that will be modelled after the CPP, complete with mandatory employer contributions. The ORPP is scheduled to come into effect January 1, 2017. It has concurrently introduced legislation for a voluntary Pooled Registered Pension Plan (PRPP).

If your eligible business does not already have a similar retirement savings vehicle in place, which has yet to be defined by the government, you will have an automatic increase of up to 1.9% on your payroll taxes starting in 2017. For more information, please see the following:

Many business owners, particularly owner/operators, will want to keep informed of the progress of this legislation.

6 Must Have Coaching Skills for the Successful Manager

Some managers may believe they are using an effective coaching approach when managing their team only to later realize that their employees are still asking the same questions and/or are not improving even after having provided them with feedback. A study conducted by Bersin & Associates showed that organizations with managers who coach effectively and frequently improve their business results by 21 percent as compared to those who never coach.

Many people, including those who are being coached, don’t understand what coaching involves so here are some key descriptors:

  • Coaches focus on the employee vs. the task – It’s about development.
  • Coaching is not about “fixing” someone – it’s about facilitating the learning process by understanding someone’s thinking.
  • Coaching is about Ask vs. Tell Approach – by asking open-ended and enlightening questions, it allows the employee to create their own solutions. They are much more engaged if it is their own idea.
  • Coaching is about setting clear accountability for actions and outcomes.
  • Coaching is something that can happen in-the-moment by capitalizing on those on-the-job learning experiences.
  • Coaching is Leading by Example – Modeling the right behaviours and being credible are key ingredients of successful coaching experiences.

So how can a Manager behave more like a Coach?

  • Ask questions to enable the coaching process. This helps you understand their point of view and encourages two-way dialogue. For example – “How do you feel the project is going?”
  • Ensure your questions are open-ended to allow the employee to think through their own problems without providing a yes or no answer.
  • Guide the conversation with the use of powerful questions Examples include:
  • “What does success look like?”
  • “What have you already tried?”
  • “How will this decision help you accomplish your goal?”
  • “What are some barriers you can think of to success? What are some of your ideas for overcoming those barriers?”
  • Avoid the trap of doing all the talking – spend more time on asking questions and listening. (You have two ears and one mouth; use them in proportion!)
  • Ensure your employee understands what is expected of them by asking clarifying questions.
  • Invest your time to support the employee by providing continuous feedback.

As you can see, the main premise in coaching is to Ask Questions to engage the employee in creative problem solving, versus telling them what to do. What questions will you ask your employees today?