Duties of Employer - Act Part 6, Section 54
This section explains the responsibilities of the employer before, during and after an employee requests leave under this Part of the Act.
54. (1) An employer must give an employee who requests leave under this Part the leave to which the employee is entitled.
(2) An employer must not, because of an employee's pregnancy or a leave allowed by this Part,
(a) terminate employment, or
(b) change a condition of employment without the employee's written consent.
(3) As soon as the leave ends, the employer must place the employee
(a) in the position the employee held before taking leave under this Part, or
(b) in a comparable position.
(4) If the employer's operations are suspended or discontinued when the leave ends, the employer must, subject to the seniority provisions in a collective agreement, comply with subsection (3) as soon as operations are resumed.
(5) Subsection (4) is not to be construed as conferring a preferential right of recall on an employee referred to in subsection (3), to whom a collective agreement does not apply, beyond that to which the employee would be otherwise entitled.
Leaves under Part 6 of the Act include pregnancy leave, parental leave, family responsibility leave, compassionate care leave, reservists’ leave, COVID-19-related leave, bereavement leave and jury duty. Remedies for contraventions of Part 6 of the Act are set out in section 79(2) of the Act.
Under section 126(4)(c) of the Act, the burden is on the employer to show that a change in a condition of employment or termination of an employee who is pregnant or on a leave (including jury duty) under this Part is not related to the employee's pregnancy or leave.
Any leave under Part 6 is a statutory entitlement, not something that may or may not be granted at the discretion of the employer. Leaves under this Part are available to employees regardless of how long they have been employed.
Employers may not terminate an employee because of an employee’s pregnancy or a leave.
An employer gives an employee notice of termination immediately upon their return to work after a pregnancy leave because the employer prefers the replacement employee. This is a contravention of s.54, because the employer’s action was related to an absence authorized by this Act.
An employer may not change a condition of employment of an employee who is pregnant or on leave without the employee’s written consent. Changes are only acceptable if they are unrelated to the employee’s pregnancy or leave.
The employer must arrange an orderly return to work for the employee at the end of the leave. The employer must place the employee back into the position held by the employee before taking the leave, or a comparable position. The burden is on the employer to establish that they attempted to recall the employee.
The requirements of this section extend beyond simply allowing the employee to return to work.
When determining a “comparable position”, the conditions of employment which are considered include, but are not limited to, the following:
- job title
- job duties
- reporting relationships
- status as perceived by other staff and the public
- pay package
- benefit plans
- hours of work
- location of work
- location of office, workstation or desk
- provision of equipment and tools
If the employer's business operations have been suspended or discontinued at the time an employee's leave ends, the employer must comply with these requirements when operations resume.
If an employer reduces operations for genuine business reasons during an employee's leave, and the employee returns to a significantly different or lesser job, it must be determined what would have happened had the employee not taken leave under this Part. If the employee would have been affected in the same manner if they had continued working and had not taken leave, the employer has not contravened this section.
Employees covered by a collective agreement
Where there is a collective agreement, disputes respecting the application, interpretation or operation of Part 6 must be resolved through the grievance procedure, not through the enforcement provisions of the Act.
Related sections of the Act or Regulation
- s 1, Definition, “conditions of employment”
- s.1, Definition, “temporary layoff”
- s.1, Definition, “termination of employment”
- s.1, Definition, “termination pay”
- s.3, Scope of the Act
- s.50, Pregnancy leave
- s.51, Parental leave
- s.52. Family responsibility leave
- s.52.1, Compassionate care leave
- s.52.11, Critical illness or injury leave
- s.52.12, COVID-19-related leave
- s.52.3, Leave respecting disappearance of child
- s.52.4, Leave respecting death of child
- s.52.5, Leave respecting domestic or sexual violence
- s.53, Bereavement leave
- s.56, Employment deemed continuous while employee on leave or jury duty
- s.63, Liability resulting from length of service
- s.64, Group terminations
- s.67, Rules about notice
- s.79(2), Determinations and consequences
- s.126(4)(b), Evidence and burden of proof