Caring for the
It seems like a paradox: Canadians are living longer, yet the death rate is expected to
climb steadily over the next 20 years as the population bulge of the Baby Boom approaches
old age. More than 252,000 Canadians died in 2010; by 2020, the figure is
expected to rise to about 300,000. Consequently, we’re facing a rising demand for hospice
palliative care – the range of supports that can relieve suffering and improve quality
of life while somebody is dying.
“In Canada, the majority of hospices are not places, but services offered in the home,”
said Rick Firth, CEO of Hospice Palliative Care Ontario (HPCO). The Canadian Hospice
Palliative Care Association (CHPCA) tells us that in Ontario, more than half of
palliative care clients are cared for primarily by their spouses or partners, and almost onethird
by their children or children-in-law.
Many of these caregivers are currently eligible for two different types of employment
leave, explains lawyer Lisa C. Cabel, a partner with Borden Ladner Gervais LLP. Under
the Ontario Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA), most employees of companies with
50 employees or more are entitled to take ten days of personal emergency leave per year.
They may also draw upon family medical leave to care for a relative who falls ill.
Ontario’s ESA defines a terminal illness as “a serious medical condition with a significant
risk of death occurring within a period of 26 weeks.” Family medical leave to offer
care to a terminally ill relative of the employee (including a spouse, a common-law partner
or an in-law) “who is dependent on the employee for care or assistance” is generally available
for a maximum of six weeks. If the relative is still alive when the 26-week period has
ended, further leave may be available.
Misunderstanding occasionally arises regarding the employer’s right to information
about the nature of the illness, says Cabel. Because the information pertains to someone
other than an employee, “employers can learn the prognosis in terms of when a return to
work would be likely, but they cannot know the diagnosis. When dealing with a family
member instead of the employee themselves, that is not relevant. The only thing you
need to know is the prognosis today.”
A GROWING NEED
By Sarah B. Hood
HRPATODAY.CA ❚ FEBRUARY 2014 ❚ 37