During the course of an employee’s tenure, it is inevitable to miss a few days due to various reasons.  The Employment Standards Act provides guidelines in resolving labour disputes and protecting labour rights but does not contain provisions relating to sick leave. Entitlement is generally based on the companies’ discretion and internal policy.  Nevertheless, according to the Act, in Ontario, individuals who work for an organization with fifty or more workers are eligible to receive a maximum of ten days of unpaid personal emergency leave in cases which include personal illness, injury or medical emergency, need to care or urgent matters concerning family members.

On the other hand, the Canada Labour Code provides protection against dismissal, lay-off, suspension, demotion or disciplinary action because of absence due to illness or injury for individuals who have completed three consecutive months of employment for the same employer.  Furthermore, the Code contains the following guidelines:

  • An employee is protected for any absence not exceeding 17 weeks.
  • Sick leave may be combined with parental, compassionate care, critical illness or leave related to death or disappearance.
  • The Code provides job security only and not salary payments. However, you may be eligible to receive benefits under the Employment Insurance Act (EI).
  • Pension, health and disability benefits, and seniority continue to accumulate during the staff’s absence. Both parties are still required to pay their own shares in the benefit plan.  Nonpayment does not affect the employee’s status but if he/she doesn’t remit his/her contribution, the company is not obligated to pay its portion.


In spite of the lack of legislation, some of the best practices include:

  • When you are unable to report to work, notify your immediate supervisor as soon as possible in order for them to manage shifts and/or workloads.
  • If you have to be off for an extended period of time, inform your manager about your situation as well as when you are expected to return.
  • Be prepared to provide a medical or doctor’s note in the event that HR requests for one.
  • If you need accommodation, whether permanent or temporary, advise the company so that they can arrange your workload.


The approval of sick leave(s) depends on management’s judgment.  Nevertheless, employers can impose restrictions or conditions to such absences and in some cases chastise employees who abuse the system.  To minimize issues, organizations must devise a comprehensive policy which may include requiring absent staff to call within a specific period of time on each day of absence, disciplinary action if unexplained absence continues, exceptions (if any), or documentation required (medical certifications).  Furthermore, such rules must be consistently applied to everyone and the company should take a fair, reasonable and firm approach in administering the guidelines.

Reference:  Ministry of Labour (http://www.labour.gov.on.ca/english/es/)

Z. Ricafrente | DBPC Blog

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