June 19th, 2020

Bereavement leave, funeral tax rebate needed as gathering limits increase in Nova Scotia

HALIFAX -- The NDP is calling on the McNeil government to create paid bereavement leave for workers and ensure that those who lost a loved one during the first wave of COVID-19 receive support from the province. Families who experienced the death of a loved one from COVID-19 or any other cause have not been able to gather to mourn together. Many will now be organizing memorials as the gathering limit increases to 50 people.

“For those who have dealt with the death of a friend or family member over the last three months, this has been a hard time,” said Wanda Smith, Funeral Director at the Arimathea Funeral Co-Op. “Gathering limits have meant many people have had to put off funerals and memorials and any support or compensation the government could provide would be appreciated and meaningful.”

In the wake of the pandemic, the NDP is calling on the government to rebate the provincial portion of the HST for funeral expenses for families in recognition of their hardship. The rebate would mean at least a few hundred dollars for each family.

“Families who have lost loved ones since the outset of the gathering restrictions have borne this added burden for the sake of the protection of the health of the people of the province. This is a sacrifice which should be acknowledged,” said NDP Leader Gary Burrill. “Acknowledgement and support from the province, in this modest way, would be a meaningful and helpful gesture.”

Nova Scotia should also take this moment to create paid bereavement leave provisions as part of the Labour Standards Code. Provincial civil service employees receive up to five consecutive paid days leave in the event of an immediate family member’s death.

“This is a time in which people will potentially need to attend memorials and deal with losses they’ve experienced during the months in which gatherings were restricted,” said Burrill. “Workers shouldn’t have to balance between grieving and losing a day's wage."

Employees in federally regulated workplaces are entitled to three paid bereavement days. PEI and Newfoundland give all workers one day paid bereavement leave. And in Quebec, employees get one paid day for the death of a spouse, parent, child, or sibling.