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Bill 8 was enacted May 30th, 2019 through BC’s Parliament and some of the most significant changes in BC’s Employment Standards relate to the introduction of new statutory leave requirements for critical illness or injury leave and leave respecting domestic violence.

While Parliament has introduced these protected leaves, industries are independently considering how to leverage leaves of absence as an employee benefit to strengthen engagement and provide value to the team.

What does this mean for employers? Well, there will always be statutory and protected leaves for employees and yes, when employees are away from work it can be challenging to cover those absences. However, managing leaves is part of running a business – things come up in people’s lives that they need to attend to, and they can’t always address those things when they are off duty. And in today’s market when the competition for talent is tight, offering something a little different that people value can help attract and retain great team members.

Some employers are getting creative with granting paid leave benefits…here are some great examples:

  1. Unlimited time off. Recently, one of our clients shared that they have adopted an “Unlimited Time Off” offering for their employees. Instead of having a traditional annual vacation benefit allotment, sick leave benefit, and/or personal time off allocation, employees at this organization are allowed to take as much paid time off as they feel is reasonable, with appropriate planning and communication with their team of course.

    This organization found the traditional benefit for time away from work didn’t provide as much flexibility they wanted for their team members. After a trial year of unlimited paid time off, it was clear they had found a new solution that worked for them. Average time off is essentially the same as it was before, people have not abused the benefit. The perk for employees is flexibility and freedom with responsibility; the perk for the organization is how much stronger the trust, communication and collaboration are within the team now.

    Team members take time off when they need it and how they need it, sometimes in small bits to attend to emergent personal matters or mini-breaks, and of course there are the traditional week(s) of time off to really unplug and recharge. Employees don’t need to wait for time to accrue or a bank to be replenished, the organization has put its trust in its people to respect the autonomy they have to enjoy this benefit.

  2. ‘paw-ternity’ or ‘fur-ternity’ leave. In this case, employees receive paid leave when they bring home a new pet. Recognizing the benefits of pet-ownership and the initial commitment to orienting a new pet to one’s home, this paid leave benefit is a huge perk for new fur parents.

  3. Pet Bereavement Leave. At the other end of the spectrum, granting paid bereavement leave when an employee’s beloved pet passes is another generous and meaningful benefit that is also being provided. Losing a loved one is difficult in any circumstance, and often, employees may tap into their vacation time or sick leave benefits to cope with the loss of a pet. Honouring the passing of a pet with bereavement leave benefits supports employees in the most respectful way.

  4. Wedding leave. This is another new trend! You could refer to it as a company’s wedding gift to the employee getting married or entering a domestic partnership. Instead of employees using vacation time for wedding planning or honeymoons, some employers offer a few days to a full week of paid time off to help their employees celebrate this life event.

  5. Sabbaticals. These have been around for a while and have traditionally been unpaid extended leaves of absence with your original job to return to. Some employers now are offering paid sabbaticals as a reward, such as a paid four-week leave after five years of service. Another twist is offering employees to go on a ‘service sabbatical’ where they get the opportunity to put their time and energy towards activities that align with the organization’s values or corporate giving philosophy and earn their regular wages while in service of another cause.

As you can see, there are lots of different ideas on how organizations can promote leaves of absences as a valued benefit to employees. What has been shared here are just a few ideas of different ways paid leaves can be leveraged for employees’ benefits and represent some of the newer ideas and trends employers are providing. Of course, not all offerings may work in all businesses, and an organization’s culture will influence and support the benefits provided to its employees. We’d love to hear what you do in your organization and we’re here to help if you’d like to redesign your leave program!

Your Engaged HR assignment: Review your leaves of absence policy/guidelines and consider it from a benefits perspective – How does it align with the organization’s culture and compensation philosophy? Where are there opportunities to offer more flexibility and/or promote team members benefitting from taking time to recharge?

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