Unpaid Time Off Protected to Give Critical Gift of Life: Howard, Oswald
Manitobans will have the formal right to take unpaid leave for the purpose of living organ and tissue donation under an amendment to the Employment Standards Code, which takes effect today, Labour and Immigration Minister Jennifer Howard has announced.
“Most employers in the province would voluntarily provide unpaid leave to employees who are donating potentially life-saving organs or tissues for transplantation, and this legislation formally recognizes the need for job-protected leave in this type of situation,” Howard said. “The proposed amendment was introduced as a private member’s bill. I’d like to extend thanks to my colleague Inkster MLA Kevin Lamoureux for bringing this legislation forward, and to employers and labour representatives who worked quickly to provide feedback to the legislation.”
Manitoba is only the second Canadian jurisdiction to provide job-protected leave specifically for living organ and tissue donors in its employment standards legislation. Organ- and tissue-donor leave gives employees the opportunity to take up to 13 weeks of unpaid time off while they prepare for, undergo and recover from transplant surgery. This leave can be extended by up to 13 additional weeks if recommended by a physician. If individuals want to end the leave early, they must provide employers with written notice of their intent to return at least one pay period before they return.
Although this type of leave can be unpredictable, employees must have worked for the same employer for at least 30 days to qualify. As with other leave provisions, employees must be allowed to return to their job or a comparable job with the same or greater benefits and pay.
The Labour Management Review Committee, made up of business and labour representatives, was consulted on the issue and gave unanimous support to the proposal, Howard said.
The Manitoba government also supports organ and tissue transplantation through the Living Organ Donor Reimbursement Program under which eligible donors can receive up to $5,500 to help cover out-of-pocket expenses for costs such as travel and accommodations that might otherwise present a barrier to participation.
“Manitobans are well known for their generosity and we want to make it easier for people to give this critical gift of life,” said Health Minister Theresa Oswald. “These life-saving individuals shouldn’t have to suffer financial hardship for an act of selflessness.”
Sixteen living donors have accessed the reimbursement program since its launch in October 2008.
Other types of leave available to Manitoba employees include maternity, parental, family and bereavement leave.