Workers protest emergency leave pay rejection
Under Ontario’s new labour law, employees are entitled to two paid personal emergency leave days per year.
However, several workers at an Alexandria company have been denied their requests for personal emergency leave (PEL) day compensation as outlined under the Employment Standards Act (ESA).
A group grievance has been filed by the Teamsters Union on behalf of about 15 Farley Window and Doors employees, says union official Brad Reid.
Although complaints were filed with the plant’s owner, KP Building Products Ltd., about two months ago, the grievances remain unresolved.
The News contacted the company last week but at press time, KP had not responded to a request for comment.
To date, the employer has not provided a reason for its refusal.
“I was told it was in lawyers’ hands,” says Denis Quesnel, a 20year employee, who took two PEL days in March when his wife was admitted to hospital for surgery. When he asked to be paid for those two days, the human resources department told him, “Nobody is getting paid those days.”
Since the group grievance was filed in February, little progress has been made, relates Mr. Reid. In the most recent of several emails, the company said it was still in the midst of a “fact-finding” process, says Mr. Reid. “We are pursuing it,” he adds. While workers see the denial of PEL day pay as being a clear violation of the law, employers have a different interpretation of the new standards.
“It is not as straight up as you would think,” observes the Teamsters representative, noting that since labour law amendments were implemented in January, several PEL complaints have been registered against employers.
For example, certain companies deduct the PEL days for the number of bereavement days provided for in collective agreements.
Because of the nature of the business, the number of Teamsters members working at the Farley Window and Doors fluctuates, Mr. Reid notes. At peak production, the work force can reach 225.
In May 2017, KP Building Products announced a $3.2 million investment in its Farley Window and Doors site in Alexandria.
In 2014, KP Building Products, one of the largest manufacturers of construction materials in Canada, purchased all of the assets of Farley Group Inc.
KP has 18 manufacturing plants and 2,200 employees throughout North America.
What is PEL?
The Ministry of Labour’s web page provides information on PEL rules.
Most employees have the right to take up to 10 days of job-protected leave each calendar year due to illness, injury, death and certain emergencies and urgent matters.
Reasons for taking a PEL day include a personal illness, injury or medical emergency or death, illness, injury, medical emergency or urgent matter relating to family members.
The first two days of personal emergency leave must be paid.
If an employment contract provides a greater right or benefit than the personal emergency leave standard under the Employment Standards Act (ESA), then the terms of the contract apply instead of the standard.
If the contract does not provide a greater right or benefit, then the personal emergency leave standard in the ESA applies to the employee.
Example: A contract only provides three paid personal sick days and three paid bereavement leave days per year. It does not include job-protected time off for any other reason.
This contract does not provide a greater right or benefit than the personal emergency leave provisions. This means that the employee is entitled to 10 days of job protected personal emergency leave per calendar year.
There is nothing in the ESA that would prohibit an employer from subtracting any PEL days that are taken from the paid days under the contract. For example, if the employee takes three days of PEL for personal illness in a calendar year, the ESA does not prohibit the employer from counting those days against both the employment contract entitlements and against the employee’s PEL entitlement. While this is not prohibited under the ESA, an employment contract may address whether any PEL days count against any contractual leave entitlements.
On the other hand, if an employer offers a benefit plan for sick days, bereavement days, or for any other event that any leave under the ESA can be taken, and the employee chooses to claim benefits under the plan, the employee has in effect designated the absence as a day of statutory leave and it will reduce the employee’s ESA entitlement.
For example, if an employer offers three paid bereavement days under a benefits plan and the employee is absent three days because of the death of a parent and claims benefits under the plan, the employee is considered to have used three of his or her PEL days.