Employees who work for federally regulated fleets will begin to accrue 10 days of paid medical leave per year when Bill C-3 is triggered on Dec. 1, leaving employers to manage the requirements and prevent abuse.
But while there’s an undeniable cost to the rule, Trucking HR Canada chief program officer Craig Faucette sees several related benefits for employers and employees alike.
“Workers now don’t have to choose between getting paid and taking a sick day,” he said, adding that sick workers will feel more valued and be able to recover more quickly. Healthy workers are more productive, too.
“Whether you have five employees or 500 employees, the same requirement applies to you,” said Dorian Persaud of Persaud Employment Law, during a webinar hosted by Trucking HR Canada.
How workers accrue available days
While the days of medical leave will be accrued beginning Dec. 1, the first three days will not be available to employees until Jan. 1. “You have to work for 30 days to accrue this medical leave,” Persaud explained. Once those first three days are accrued, another day can be added after each month on the job, up to a maximum of 10 days in a calendar year.
The amount of daily pay is based on the average paid during the 20 days that someone worked immediately before their first day off the job. Bonuses and overtime are not included.
Unused days become a credit that can be applied to the maximum of 10 days in the year that follows. “You can’t accumulate more than 10 days,” Persaud said. And employers can choose whether to follow a calendar year or fiscal year when calculating the amount that’s entitled.
These 10 days are on top of the minimum of five “personal days” already allowed under the Canada Labour Code. Those are applied to issues like caring for family members, addressing urgent matters, or the education of family members under the age of 18.
Used for medical issues
Employees can take the medical leave for a personal illness or injury, organ or tissue donation, medical appointment, or to quarantine – on any day when they’re scheduled to work or expected to be available. But it’s not meant to be used to top up wages, so the days can’t be applied to times when they normally would not be working, Persaud said.
It will be up to fleets to ensure the days are applied to actual medical issues and not abused.
Those who take a compassionate approach to the rules will be most successful, Faucette said, referring to the need to set expectations, ensuring employees know what can be used, and reminding people that failing to follow the related procedures could mean disciplinary action. If a fleet believes someone is misusing the available days, a timely meeting will be key, with managers setting the tone and looking to identify any underlying issues.
“Apply your company sick leave policy equally to everyone,” he added, noting those who know they’re being tracked will be less likely to abuse the available days.
“Communication is a big part of this as well,” Persaud said, “letting folks know that this benefit is available, that you expect employees to conduct themselves in good faith.”
Watch for patterns
That can mean watching for patterns such as someone who always tends to take their sick days on a Friday or Monday, or in the days around long weekends.
Employers can ask employees to provide a note from a physician, physiotherapist or chiropractor once an employee has used five or more consecutive days of the paid leave, but such requests need to be made in writing and no more than 15 days after the employee returns to work.
“You want to be focused on how you can incentivize as opposed to penalize folks,” Persaud said. Employees can’t be penalized for using the available days, but he said there are options to provide health benefits, bonuses, or to pay out the unused days in a given year.
Wellness programs can also limit the need for the lost time, Faucette said, referring to workplace benefits such as paid gym memberships as an example.
Above all, he recommended setting clear expectations about the days, demonstrating care, identifying resources for support, and managing workloads.
Communicating expectations, tracking sick days, being consistent, and being mindful of human rights will play a central role in preventing misuse, he said.
“We’re all fearful of the benefit being abused,” Persaud added. Then again, he said the fears about widespread use of marijuana in the workplace never materialized after the drug was legalized.
“You don’t want to build your policies and your practices around fear,” he said.