P.E.I.'s labour relations director has a warning for Island parents: While you'll soon be entitled to an 18-month parental leave, there's no guarantee your job will be there when you get back.
The federal government is changing its parental leave rules, giving parents the option to stretch 12 months of parental leave pay out over 18 months. But only federally regulated companies actually follow the Canada Labour Code — most Island employers have to follow P.E.I.'s Employment Standards Act, which only protects workers for a year of parental leave.
The province could change the act to support the federal change, which takes effect Dec. 3, but Ontario is the only province to have done so since the change was announced earlier this month.
"If people are expecting to be off for 18 months, and want to be assured their job will still be in place, they need to check with their employer in advance to be sure the employer can grant them the 18-month protection," Constance Robinson said.
Province still considering
Robinson said the province is still considering whether to extend that protection to 18 months.
'They need to check with their employer in advance to be sure the employer can grant them the 18 month protection.' - Constance Robinson, P.E.I. director of labour and industrial relations
"Part of it this is around [Island employers] having time to make plans, and to be ready for the implications of having employees protected for that long," she said.
"Some employers, particularly small employers with positions that may be difficult to fill, that additional six months of time may be quite an impact on them. So, we need to be thoughtful about that."
Robinson said the P.EI. government first wants to consult with the other Atlantic provinces and interest groups on the Island.
'Implications for collective agreements'
"We certainly always take into account a variety of voices within the province, and that would include associations and labour groups," she said. "There could be implications for collective agreements that stipulate how much leave time people get, and other kinds of benefits we want to be thoughtful about before we make a move."
Robinson said her department hasn't set a timeline for making a decision on 18-month leave protection.
Any changes to the Employment Standard Act will have to be approved by cabinet.
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