Businesses everywhere are trying to keep up with the rapid-fire changes happening right now. Between revised lists of essential businesses, rules about back-to-work, and guidelines for social distancing, there is a lot to remember.
If you run an international business, you might have questions about employment law and what your employees are allowed to do in the jurisdictions you operate in.
You might ask what the allowances for caregivers look like between the US and Canada. This guide compares the two, offering a clearer picture of what your obligations are to your employees, no matter where they work.
Caregiver Allowances in the United States
At the federal level, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides up to 12 weeks of job protected leave for eligible employees. Under the Act, employees who take this unpaid leave will retain access to their benefits, assuming they make any applicable premium payments, and are entitled to return to the same job. If that job no longer exists, they may need to be offered an equivalent one.
FMLA doesn’t cover everyone, though. The federal law applies to businesses with 50 or more employees and may apply to joint employer relationships.
Employees are eligible if they work for a covered employer and have put in a minimum of 1,250 hours in a 12 month period. That amounts to about 24 hours per week. The 1,250 hours does not include paid time off for vacation or sick leave.
Employees are able to take FMLA for their own serious or chronic health conditions, to provide care for an ill family member or certain military service requirements.
Due to FMLA being an unpaid benefit, some states have introduced paid caregiving leaves. These laws allow employees to take time off to provide care for family members. The major difference from FMLA is that these leaves are paid.
Under paid caregiver leaves, the employee generally earns a percentage of their salary for the time they are away. Some states have laws on the table, which aren’t yet in effect. If your business operates in a state without paid leave, employers can elect to pay employees for taking FMLA leave. They may also use paid leave, such as sick days or vacation, to cover all or part of an unpaid FMLA leave. If choosing to pay for time off, employers need to ensure they are being consistent in their practices.
In early April, the federal government introduced a temporary measure aimed at making paid leave available for American workers affected by COVID-19, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). The program offers tax credits to certain employers who provide paid FFCRA sick or family leave to their employees.
Emergency Leave for Canadian Employees
The provisions for caregiving leave for Canadian workers also vary from province to province. In Ontario, for example, workers are entitled to up to 10 days of unpaid emergency leave for specific reasons.
In light of COVID-19, the Government of Ontario introduced unpaid leave for workers impacted in almost any way. Emergency leave was extended to workers who needed to take time off to care for their children, who became sick with COVID-19, or who have to care for someone.
At the federal level, some of these workers are able to access the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, which provides payments during the time the worker is unable to perform their job duties.
Other provinces have introduced different measures. The federal government and the provinces have also introduced a multitude of benefits designed to help businesses keep their team members on payroll, while alleviating pressure from the downturn.
In many ways, Canadian emergency leave benefits look similar to those in the United States. If you’re able to offer some form of paid leave, you may be able to access government benefits to assist. The pandemic has illustrated how important it is to provide access to leave to workers in the US, in Canada, and everywhere.