New rules beginning in January will extend parental leave and introduce family violence leave for many workers in the Northwest Territories, its employment minister said on Thursday.
Parental leave will change from 37 weeks of unpaid leave to 61 weeks, taken immediately following pregnancy leave. Two-parent families – including adoptive parents – can access an extra eight weeks' unpaid leave for the second parent.
Family violence leave will give workers five days of paid leave and five days unpaid each year if they are experiencing domestic violence, with another 15 unpaid weeks available with prior written notice.
"This leave could be taken to seek medical attention, attend counselling or legal appointments, obtain victim services, and for a variety of other purposes," the territory said in a statement.
The changes don't apply to federal or territorial government staff, or those in federally regulated industries (the NWT government gave airlines, banks, and most telecoms companies as examples).
Federally regulated workers have been eligible for a range of similar options since late 2017. The territorial government's latest collective agreement provides for three days' paid domestic violence leave per year, though the agreement states additional days' leave "shall not be unreasonably denied."
Employment minister RJ Simpson told the legislature the new leave provisions – which are amendments to the Employment Standards Act – would "allow the Northwest Territories to remain competitive with other jurisdictions by offering employees the flexibility to balance personal responsibilities while maintaining their employment status."
Other changes include extending compassionate care leave from eight to 27 weeks of unpaid leave each year, allowing people to care for family members who are gravely ill.
A new family caregiver leave provides up to 17 weeks' unpaid leave to care for an adult relative who is ill or injured, or up to 37 weeks if the relative is a child.
Parental leave: previously 37 weeks unpaid, now 61 weeks. Additional eight weeks' unpaid leave for second parent.
Compassionate care leave: previously eight weeks unpaid, now 27 weeks.
Family caregiver leave: New. Up to 17 weeks' unpaid leave to care for an adult relative or 37 weeks to care for a child.
Family violence leave: New. Five days paid and five unpaid if experiencing domestic violence, with another 15 weeks' unpaid leave available.
Changes apply only to workers governed by Employment Standards Act.
The amendments are designed to ensure the NWT comes into line with earlier federal amendments to the Canada Labour Code and employment insurance, the territory said.
In the legislature, Simpson said family violence was "a serious issue that affects too many of our residents." He said the introduction of family violence leave would "protect employees and allow them time to seek help."
For employers, Simpson said there would be "an advertising blitz in the new year" to help companies understand and implement the changes.