Manitoba's Growth, Enterprise and Trade Minister Blaine Pedersen says legislation introduced this week regarding employment and leave provisions in the province has long been called for.

Part of the proposed changes would see the province give Manitobans the option to extend parental leave provisions from 37 weeks to 63, similar to a plan recently announced by the federal government. The move however wouldn't increase the benefits available during that time but would spread them out over a longer period.

"It allows those who are able to (and) who want to take a longer paternal leave, it allows them to do that," said Pedersen.

The Tories are also proposing to establish a new 17 week leave that would allow employees to care for a critically ill family member - that be child or adult. Current legislation only allows for employees to take a leave in order to care for a critically ill child.

"We believe that's pretty big for a lot of Manitobans," said Pedersen, pointing to an aging population of Baby Boomers that is beginning to require more care from their adult children.

Meantime, the province is also presented a plan to better prepare young people for the workforce. The legislation would require teens between the ages of 13 and 16 to successfully complete an online readiness course before landing a job. Pedersen explained that having young workers earn this certificate would eliminate the requirement for employers to obtain a permit before hiring someone under the age of 16.

He explained the plan mirrors one already in place in Saskatchewan and covers the rules for health and safety, fairness and fair pay. The course also teaches young people how to read a pay statement, how to make a complaint and how to refuse unusually dangerous work. There's even WHMIS training.

"We're teaching our young people right away about health and safety in the workplace and how to deal with workplace issues. We're quite impressed with this work book and we'll get it set up as soon as the legislation is passed," added Pedersen.

Meantime, the Tories also want to raise the minimum age for employment from 12 to 13, bringing it in line with the United Nations’ International Labour Organization.

A statement from the province outlines additional proposals that include introducing a new process to allow an employer and an employee, or group of employees, to enter into an agreement on averaging hours of work without requiring approval from the director of employment standards; authorizing the director of employment standards to refuse frivolous or vexatious complaints; and clarifying unionized employees would no longer have the ability to file a complaint with the director of employment standards since collective agreements include grievance processes for handling disputes between employers and employees about wages or other terms of employment.

"These additional measures include red tape reduction initiatives and opportunities to modernize departmental functions," said Pedersen.

The series of proposals has yet to be passed in the Manitoba Legislature.

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