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!

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.

How to Conduct an Effective Workplace Investigation

You’ve just received a complaint from one of your employees that feels he is being bullied by his manager. What do you do? Most managers are very uncomfortable with this scenario and are unsure of the steps they need to take swiftly in order to both resolve the situation and meet the requirements of the law.

The 5 key components to an effective workplace investigation are:

  • Speed
  • Confidentiality
  • Thoroughness
  • Objectivity
  • Closing the Loop
  • Speed

As soon as a complaint is brought forward you are obligated to investigate, regardless if the complaint is verbal or in writing. Speed is of the essence to ensure employees know you take complaints seriously and that the situation doesn’t spread further. Interviews need to be conducted with both the complainant and the alleged harasser. Both should be asked if there were any witnesses to the incident(s) and those witnesses also need to be interviewed. Keep careful notes of the interviews. It is also a good practice to allow the interviewee to review your notes and sign off on them as being an accurate record.

Confidentiality

It is extremely important to stress to all interviewees, including witnesses, that the interview must be kept confidential. There are to be no discussions of the interview with any outside parties, nor to other witnesses or the complainant or alleged harasser. By keeping the investigation contained within the bounds of all interviewed parties, integrity of the investigation is maintained as well as the privacy of all individuals involved. If one of the interviewees is found to have broken the confidentiality agreement, appropriate disciplinary action should be taken.

Thoroughness

The investigator should review all the material pertinent to the complaint, including any documentation by both the complainant and the alleged harasser, and speaking to all available witnesses. Any other evidence that may be available should also be reviewed, such as security camera footage, emails (assuming your policy has already informed employees that their emails may be monitored), etc.

Objectivity

Do not jump to conclusions. Maintain objectivity throughout the process. Once you have collected all the data, then make a determination based on the evidence. Your report should also include what steps need to be taken to resolve the situation, such as disciplinary action, mediation, training, etc.

Closing the Loop

Don’t keep the parties hanging. You need to meet with each party (complainant and alleged harasser) after the investigation has concluded and let them know the results. To maintain confidentiality, this means just the high level results. A copy of the report and all documentation need to be kept in a separate file from the employee file. If disciplinary action is warranted, a copy of this can go in the appropriate employee file.

This is a very simple explanation of an investigation process. There are entire courses dedicated to this topic that can provide more details on each of the steps above, but each investigation should have the above components as a minimum. Workplace investigations are never enjoyable and many people dread them. But these 5 key components will help guide you through what can often be an uncomfortable process.