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What Are My Rights If I Need to Go on Sick Leave?

Sick Leave

Most Ontarians know that if they wake up with a fever one morning that they can call into work, use one of their sick days, and take the day to get healthy. But what you may not know is how many sick days you’re legally entitled to, what your employer can ask you about your illness or whether your employer can ask you for a note from your doctor.  

If you’re ever unsure about your rights in the workplace or if you have questions related to your disability and accommodations or benefits, don’t hesitate to call up a Toronto disability lawyer. Disability and employment lawyers are passionate about seeing everyone treated fairly and enjoy informing people about rights they didn’t know they had.

So in that spirit, keep reading to learn about the legal side of sick leave in Ontario.

What is Sick Leave?

Sick leave is time you can take off from work because you are sick or injured, and while you are gone, your job is protected. Depending on your employment contract, you may be entitled to paid or unpaid sick days every calendar year. The reason for your illness or injury does not have to be work-related, and you are still entitled to it sick days even if you caused your own sickness or injuries.

The minimum rules around sick leave are decided by the provinces, and employers may decide to add to the provincial minimums. Federal workers’ rights, however, come from the federal government, and laws for federal employees regarding their employment rights come from the Canada Labour Code, an employment contract, or collective bargaining agreement.

Canada’s sick leave policy for federal employees allows five days of leave in a calendar year for sick leave or leave related to the health or care of any of their family members. It includes three paid days after three months of continuous employment.

You can find out what the employment laws are in other provinces by checking out this Canadian Labour Congress page which summarizes current sick leave requirements for each province and links to each one’s employment legislation for reference. Spoiler alert, Ontarians are only allowed three days of unpaid sick days per year.

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Sick Leave and Employment Rights

Sick days are protected, meaning you can’t lose your job for taking or asking about sick days, or be threatened or penalized for taking sick leave. If an employer cuts your hours or changes your role or duties at work for taking sick leave, speak to an employment lawyer right away. 

Giving Your Employer Notice

You have a duty to notify your employer if you need to use your sick days. Ideally, that notice should be given before you go on leave. However, notifying your employer as soon as possible after starting the sick leave is acceptable and will not disqualify you from using your sick leave. 

You don’t have to give written notice; notice can be given verbally.

Providing Your Employer with Proof of Eligibility and Medical Notes

An employer can ask you to provide proof that the sick leave is legitimate as long as it’s “reasonable in the circumstances.”  Whether it is reasonable depends on if the employee is constantly absent or how much time the employee has already taken off, etc.

Also, if it’s reasonable, an employer can ask you to provide a medical note from a healthcare provider such as a doctor, nurse practitioner, or psychologist. But they are only entitled to know the date you were seen by the healthcare practitioner, whether you were seen in person by the healthcare professional issuing the note, and how long you’re expected to be on leave. 

Using Sick Leave with Other Types of Leave

Ontario workers may also be entitled to other types of leave from work, including:

  • Bereavement Leave
  • Child Death Leave
  • Crime-Related Child Disappearance Leave
  • Critical Illness Leave
  • Domestic or Sexual Violence Leave
  • Family Caregiver Leave
  • Family Medical Leave
  • Family Responsibility Leave

A single incident may require you to take more time off work than your allotted sick leave. If the circumstances of that event entitle you to another type of leave, you can take it in addition to the sick leave.

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