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  • HR Heartbeat: Off to the ballots, bereavement leave for pets, and....

HR Heartbeat: Off to the ballots, bereavement leave for pets, and....

This week's HR Heartbeat examines whether employees need time off to grieve a pet, changes to employers' responsibilities for telecommuting employees and more.

First published on Monday, Sep 18, 2023

Last updated on Tuesday, Sep 19, 2023

3 min read

Have you heard the latest news?

Welcome to HR Heartbeat, where we give you a rundown of the week's top employment law stories. Stay on the pulse of current trends impacting your business. Plus get up-to-the-minute commentary on all things HR and legal.

So, let's check out this week's headlines..

A real cat-astrophe

It appears Quebec's Labour Standards Act is not on the side of your furry friends.

In a recent ruling, a Quebecois Labour Tribunal took the employer’s side when their former employee filed a claim alleging they were forced to leave their job. Why? Because of psychological harassment and excessive surveillance after they failed to come to work when their cat died.

When the employee came home to the dead body of their beloved pet, they were so distraught they asked to take the day off work to grieve.

The employer rejected their request and asked the employee to come to work, but the employee chose to work from home instead. The employee soon learned they weren't paid for working that day and quit shortly after.

The court ruled the employer didn't act outside of the law since Quebec's labour standards don't have provisions for paid days off when an employee loses their pet. Employees only get bereavement leave for the death of a parent, sibling, spouse, or child.

While the law doesn't think employers should grant paid time off for the loss of a pet, it might be worth considering giving your staff some time away from work to grieve.

Making reasonable accommodations for requests that aren’t accounted for by the law can help build goodwill and let employees know you care about their wellbeing.

Need help handling tricky situations like this? Call our 24/7 employment relations line for expert advice from qualified specialists.

Off to the ballots

Manitobans across the province are gearing up for the upcoming provincial general elections on Tuesday, October 3, 2023.

This means employers must ensure they give their employees sufficient time off work to vote or risk facing costly fines.

According to Manitoba's The Elections Act, 2006, eligible individuals are entitled to have three consecutive hours on voting day to cast their ballot. The Act establishes that polling periods are from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm, meaning most employees who work regular eight-hour shifts (e.g., 9 am to 5 pm) do not need extra time off to vote since they will likely have three hours after they close to do so.

This rule doesn't apply to employees who work outside of standard business hours, for example, 12 pm to 9 pm. You'll either have to schedule three consecutive hours off for them on voting day or you can allow these employees to start work an hour later or leave work an hour earlier to cast their vote.

Employers who fail to plan their shifts and schedules efficiently could find themselves understaffed, leading to a loss of productivity. To stay in line with the law and keep your business running smoothly, use a reliable online schedule and open shifts software and be confident your people know where to be and when.

More reason to put those toys away

Earlier this month, Alberta's Workers' Compensation Board restructured its policy on telecommuting to provide clarity on coverage when working from designated workspaces.

According to the revamped policy, employees working from home or teleworking may only receive coverage for an injury by the WCB – Alberta if it was the result of an accident that happened during the course of their duties or if an employment hazard caused it.

This means if an employee is working from home and sustains an injury:

  • Before entering their designated work area
  • After leaving their workspace
  • During their lunch break
  • Or if accidents are caused by personal hazards (e.g., toys left around the work area)

It will not be covered.

Employees also won’t receive compensation if an accident happens during their commute to work.

Keeping these restrictions in mind, it's best practice for employers to reach an agreement with their workers specifying when and where their job duties will take place. This will help streamline the process for determining eligibility for coverage.

That's it for today! Come back next week for more HR news so you stay ahead of major employment law changes.

Have more questions on similar topics and more? We've got thousands of answers to all your HR and health & safety dilemmas.

Is bereavement leave a paid leave?

Canadian jurisdictions recognize job-protected bereavement leave for workers. Refer to the applicable provincial or federal employment standards legislation and the company's leaves of absence policy about eligibility requirements for bereavement leave, the permissible length of the leave, and whether the leave is paid or unpaid. Special rules apply to certain occupations/professions.

Can workers that aren't Canadian citizens take time-off to vote on election day?

To be eligible to vote in a municipal election, an employee must be a Canadian citizen, be at least 18 years of age, and meet certain residency, property ownership, or tenancy conditions.

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