Nova Scotia

Spurred by granddaughter's death, MLA asks for review of N.S. bereavement leave provisions

Liberal MLA Lorelei Nicoll's granddaughter, Ruby, was stillborn last November.

Liberal politician Lorelei Nicoll wants Labour Standards Code to specifically address miscarriage, stillbirth

Lorelei Nicoll, seen here at Province House on Oct. 15, 2021, is a former Halifax Regional Municipality councillor who now serves as the Liberal MLA for Cole Harbour-Dartmouth. (Robert Short/CBC)

The governing Progressive Conservatives will examine whether Nova Scotia is meeting the needs of parents who have lost a child during birth or as the result of a miscarriage after an emotional request Friday from a member of the legislature.

Lorelei Nicoll, the Liberal MLA for Cole Harbour-Dartmouth, had to compose herself and take a deep breath before asking about the provisions of the province's Labour Standards Code during question period.

Supporting bereaved parents is a deeply personal issue for Nicoll, whose granddaughter died in the womb at 32 weeks gestation in November 2020. Nicoll's daughter, Elizabeth Cushing, and son-in-law, Stephen, named their stillborn daughter Ruby.

"There will be more losses," Nicoll told CBC News after question period at the provincial legislature.

"This was one way that we could sort of validate and make sure that little Ruby will be remembered."

No mention of miscarriage, stillbirth

The problem, according to Nicoll, is provincial legislation does not specifically mention miscarriages or stillbirths in the provision that deals with bereavement leave.

She said her son-in-law had some trouble getting his leave approved by his employer. 

In an email, Nicoll's daughter said her husband's employer granted him five days of bereavement leave. But Cushing said through speaking with people who suffered similar losses, the couple discovered that other employers "weren't so forgiving."

Section 60A of the code states, "An employee is entitled to an unpaid leave of absence of up to, at the employee's option, five consecutive working days upon the death of the employee's spouse, parent, guardian, child, ward, grandparent, grandchild, sister, brother, mother-in-law, father-in-law, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, sister-in-law or brother-in-law."

The Labour Department broadly interprets "child" to include an unborn child, but Nicoll said she would like it spelled out so there's no ambiguity, and grieving parents aren't having to fight with their employers to get the time off they need to grieve.

Minister to review legislation

Labour Minister Jill Balser has agreed to review the legislation to see if changes are in order.

"Parents are entitled to five days of bereavement leave," Balser said during an interview at Province House.

"We want to make sure that parents and families know that if you know a loved one that is going through this experience, that they can reach out to our department for some support."

Labour Minister Jill Balser is seen at Province House on Oct. 15, 2021. Balser says she will examine provisions for bereavement leave as they relate to miscarriage and stillbirth in the province's Labour Standards Code. (Robert Short/CBC)

Balser said she is also willing to look at the amount of time off that is currently provided for bereavement leave to determine whether it is adequate.

The legislation provides for unpaid leave, meaning that an employer must protect the employee's job for the period of time.

Leave elsewhere in Canada

In other provinces and territories, parents are entitled to between two and seven consecutive days of leave when they lose a child. In Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island and Quebec some of those bereavement leaves are paid days off.

Federal employees benefit from the most generous allowances — up to five days off, three of those paid.

Nova Scotia is one of four provinces offering five days off to grieve a family member who dies.




To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Account Holder

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?