Dealing with an injury or illness can be a stressful event, made worse by uncertainty regarding your income if you need to take time off work. Luckily, Ontario workers benefit from certain entitlements relating to sick leave. 

This blog post aims to provide a comprehensive guide to how provincial employees’ sick leave works in Ontario (those employed by federally-regulated industries, like aviation, have different leave entitlements under the Canada Labour Code, R.S.C., 1985, c. L-2). 

The information below applies to employee rights under Ontario’s Employment Standards Act, 2000, SO 2000, c 41. An employee’s employment contract may provide greater rights or higher benefits than those outlined below – if this is the case, the terms of the contract supersede the rights outlined below. 

What is Sick Leave? 

Sick leave is the right that employees have to take time off due to personal illness, injury, or medical emergency. This right is entrenched in s. 50 of Ontario’s Employment Standards Act, 2000, SO 2000, c 41.

Remember that sick leave entitles an employee to take time off work due to illness. It does not automatically entitle an employee to be paid while on sick leave (we’ll discuss how employment insurance benefits intersect with sick leave later in this article). 

Eligibility for Sick Leave

To be eligible for sick leave under s.50 of Ontario’s Employment Standards Act, 2000, SO 2000, c 41, an employee must have been employed by their employer for at least two consecutive weeks. The need for leave must relate to personal illness, injury, or medical emergencies. These reasons include elective surgeries if the surgery relates to an illness, injury, or medical emergency but do not apply to wholly elective procedures (such as cosmetic surgery). 

Length of Sick Leave

Employees can take up to three days of unpaid sick leave per calendar year. Remember that taking sick leave does not preclude you from using other types of leave (for instance, critical illness leave) for the same personal illness, personal injury, or medical emergency. 

Notice Requirements for Sick Leave

If an employee needs to take sick leave, they must notify their employee either before the sick leave commences or as soon as possible after beginning it. Depending on the employer, the employee may be asked to provide “reasonable” evidence that they are entitled to sick leave (for example, a medical note). 

Extending a Sick Leave

If an employee uses their three days of sick leave but requires more time to recover from their illness, injury, or medical emergency, they are not entitled to extend their sick leave (unless their employment contract provides greater sick leave protections than those outlined in the Employment Standards Act, 2000, SO 2000, c 41). However, there are different avenues to consider depending on the nature of your condition, including the following: 

  • Critical illness leave: If eligible, employees may take up to 17 weeks of unpaid critical illness leave under the Employment Standards Act, 2000, SO 2000, c 41, in addition to sick leave. Critical illness leave is available when an employee’s health has changed significantly, and their life is at risk as a result of the change. 
  • Infectious disease emergency leave: if the employee’s leave relates to a designated infectious disease, they may be eligible to take unpaid infectious disease emergency leave. 
  • Rights under the Human Rights Code, RSO 1990, c H.19: In Ontario, the Human Rights Code states that employers must accommodate employees with disabilities unless it would cause the employer undue hardship. Depending on the nature of the illness, injury, or medical emergency, the employer may be required to accommodate the employee. 
  • Discussions with employer: In some cases, an employee may be able to speak with their employer to seek an extended leave or accommodations relating to their medical condition. Remember that these conversations can be delicate, and it’s best to speak with an experienced employment law lawyer before approaching your employer to better understand your rights and the best course of action. 

Sick Leave and Employment Benefits 

By default, sick leave is not paid in Ontario, and employers are not obligated to pay employees while on sick leave (unless otherwise stated in their employment contract). 

However, many employees are eligible for employment benefits during extended medical leave, as follows: 

  • Employer-paid sick leave: depending on your employer, you may be eligible for paid sick leave or a short-term disability plan. 
  • Employment insurance (EI) sickness benefits: if you are unable to work for medical reasons, you may be eligible for EI sickness benefits. These benefits will provide you with up to 26 weeks of financial assistance, amounting to 55% of your earnings (to a maximum of $668.00 per week). To qualify for EI sickness benefits, you will need to provide a medical certificate confirming that you are unable to work due to illness, injury, or a medical emergency. 
  • Disability insurance: you may be covered by disability insurance either through your employer or through a personal insurance plan. These plans replace a portion of your income to a maximum amount and for a specified time if you are unable to work due to injury or illness.  
  • Long-term disability benefits: if you will be unable to work due to illness on a long-term basis, you may be eligible for Canada Pension Plan (CPP) disability benefits. You will need to meet certain requirements to qualify for CPP disability benefits, such as having contributed enough money to CPP, being under the age of 65, and having a long-term, indefinite disability. The monthly payment for CPP disability benefits starts at $583.32 and reaches a maximum of $1,606.78 per month. 

Final Thoughts on Sick Leave Rights

Understanding sick leave in Ontario is critical if you are injured or suffering from an illness or medical emergency, and knowing what rights and benefits you are entitled to can go a long way in bringing you peace of mind. 

If you have concerns about navigating sick leave – or any type of employment leave – be sure to speak with an experienced employment law lawyer. They will be able to advise you on your rights and benefits and help you work with your employer to obtain the best possible outcome. 

Experienced Employment Lawyers Protecting Employee Benefits and Rights

At Tierney Stauffer LLP, our team helps employees with many employment law issues ranging from reviewing new employment contracts to obtaining compensation when an employee is wrongfully dismissed. Navigating issues with a current or former employer can be difficult and emotional, and we strive to keep our clients well-informed of their rights to assist them in resolving their disputes as quickly as possible. 

Call us at 1-888-799-8057 or contact us online to speak with an experienced employment law lawyer today. 


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