Copy

Many workers in Ontario have no right to paid sick leave

Recent reports point to the many negative effects that lack of paid sick time has on workers. Illnesses spread because workers can't afford to take time off and hospital emergency departments see people who can't get to their doctors during office hours.

This month's On the Radar talks about the personal emergency leave available to people covered by rules in Ontario's Employment Standards Act and how these rules fail to meet the needs of many workers.
 

The right to take time off for illness

The Employment Standards Act (ESA) gives some workers the right to take up to 10 days of "personal emergency leave" each year. This right applies to workers who:
  • are covered by the ESA, and
  • work for a company that regularly employs at least 50 workers.
Because personal emergency leave does not apply to workers in smaller companies, it's estimated that 1.6 million workers in Ontario are not covered. That's almost 1 in 3 workers, many of whom work in retail, food services, health care, and other sectors that involve contact with the public.

Other rules in the ESA may apply if a worker needs more than 10 days off for illness or some other crisis.
 

Getting paid

The ESA does not say that an employer has to pay workers who take personal emergency leave.

But a worker might have the right to be paid if:
  • they're in a union
  • they have a workplace policy or employment contract that gives them this right

Taking personal emergency leave

A worker can use personal emergency leave if the worker or a family member is sick, injured, or has a medical emergency.

They can also use it when a family member has an "urgent matter". The ESA has rules about what is an urgent matter and who is a family member.
 

Giving employers proof

Employers can ask for proof of the need for personal emergency leave. So workers who take time off for illness may need to get a doctor's note.

This applies even if they have a cold or other illness that does not require medical treatment. Doctors say that this adds unnecessary costs to our health care system.

A doctor's note should include:
  • how long the worker needs to be away or how long they needed, if they've already been away
  • when they went to the doctor
  • whether the doctor signing the note saw the worker in person
But an employer does not have the right to know the diagnosis or treatment.
 

Getting legal help

The ESA says that employers can't punish workers for asking about their rights or acting on their rights. If an employer punishes a worker for asking about or taking personal emergency leave, there may be steps the worker can take.

Workers who have questions or need help to deal with a problem at work can read more in CLEO's Where can I get help and advice about my rights as a worker?
 

Calling for change

Workers' advocates and others, including many doctors, have called on the Ontario government to give all workers the right to paid sick days without the need for a doctor's note.

The government is reviewing the laws that cover workers, including the ESA, and is expected to release an interim report this spring.
This email alert gives general legal information. It is not a substitute for getting legal advice about a particular situation.
April 2016
 
On the Radar is a monthly email alert from CLEO that highlights timely legal information.
Change of topic
Because of upcoming changes that will replace the Canada Child Tax Benefit with the new Canada Child Benefit, we aren't able to cover that topic this month as planned.

Other related resources

Ontario lagging on paid sick days, leaving low-wage workers stranded (Toronto Star)
Still Working on the Edge (Workers' Action Centre)
Personal Emergency Leave (Ontario Ministry of Labour)
The Changing Workplaces Review (Ontario Ministry of Labour)
View and order CLEO publications at www.cleo.on.ca


Information from hundreds of organizations on a wide range of legal topics, including Employment and Work, as well as key legal and community services across the province.


CLEO (Community Legal Education Ontario / Éducation juridique communautaire Ontario)
180 Dundas Street West, Suite 506, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5G 1Z8
Phone: 416-408-4420 Email: info@cleo.on.ca 


You are receiving On the Radar because you have subscribed to receive information about CLEO publications or have ordered CLEO publications in the past. To unsubscribe visit this page.