Never underestimate the power of story....
Private Members Bill C-220
Amending the Canada Labour Code to Extend Compassionate Care Leave
On February 25, 2020, Matt Jeneroux, MP for Edmonton Riverbend, introduced Bill C-220: An Act to Amend the Canada Labour Code (Compassionate Care Leave) in the House of Commons to allow extended time off following the death of a loved one.
In Canada we are fortunate that employees have the option to take Compassionate Care Leave, allowing them to take up to 28 weeks off work to provide care and support to a family member who has a serious medical condition with a significant risk of death. Having this option alleviates many anxieties, both financial and job-related, so a family member can focus solely on caregiving.
However, the current Compassionate Care Leave ends within days of a loved one’s death, leaving little time for the caregiver to deal with practical necessities such as funeral planning, appropriate notifications and simply grieving. The days immediately following a death in the family are exhausting, and many employees find they need more time off work during that period.
Bill C-220 is to amend part of the Canada Labour Code to allow an employee using compassionate care leave to have more time off past the death of a loved one. This gives the caregiver time to heal and take care of practical necessities following a death. (Adapted from Matt Jeneroux website)
In January of 2020, the Alberta Hospice and Palliative Care Association (AHPCA) requested stories from those who had experience with Compassionate Care Benefits. Since I had accessed the benefits in the last few months of my husband Don’s life, I submitted my story which was then forwarded to Mr. Jeneroux in support of the amendments to Bill C-220.
I was informed that just yesterday, Bill C-220 had its second hour of debate in the House of Commons. Mr. Jeneroux read my story into the record and the bill now has all-party support. There is likely to be a vote on February 17, 2021 and if successful it will go to committee.
Shortly after Don died in 2018, I made a promise to him I would not squander the experience of his journey with cancer or his death. Today, it felt like I kept my promise.
Here is the original letter I submitted and a link video where where my story is read in parliament.
Parliamentary Reading of Bill C-220
Leslie Allen’s Story on Compassionate Care.
In December 2018, my husband Don died after a six-year journey with metastasized colorectal cancer to the lungs and bones. In June 2018 we were told that there was really nothing more that could be done for Don and that given the growth he may only live 2-6 months. It took our breath away....it is always too soon.
At that point, I decided to take a leave of absence from work. I was fortunate to have an amazing benefits plan and immediately went off on short term disability. The health nurse through my employer worked with my doctors and we mapped out the most sustainable way to use my benefits. She advised me to stop using my short-term disability benefits while Don was alive and instead go on compassionate care leave. This allowed me to use my short-term disability benefits after Don died, since the compassionate care benefits stopped after his death. If it was not for that nurse, I would not have known how to "stack" the benefit programs to my advantage.
My greatest challenge with all of it was that I was emotionally, physically, spiritually and mentally drained. Having resources to tap into to support me was essential. I was fortunate to have a benefits program that had short term disability and a nurse that was well-versed in disability management.
The amount that one receives on compassionate care leave benefits is so low that it was stressful. I have three kids and trying to parent and support them while caregiving Don was not easy. The amount given under compassionate care leave benefits is not enough and I had to cash in RRSPs to make ends meet. I was thankful to go back to short term disability as it provided 70% of my wage and consequently was much more manageable. I don't know how others do it without a benefit plan.