Do you ever find yourself confused and frustrated when faced with a genuine emergency at home but still needing to go to work? If so, you may not be aware of your legal entitlement to personal emergency leave. In Ontario, Bill 148 introduced amendments to personal leave that included two days of paid personal emergency leave and a total of 10 days off. However, these laws were later modified by a new provincial administration, which now allows each employee a total of 10 unpaid days.
Sick leave requests can only cover essential absences from work due to personal or family sickness, pregnancy and recovery, accidents, medical visits, or legal quarantine. Despite this, many employees are unaware of their right to request personal emergency leave. Some may believe that this privilege is only available to full-time employees or those who have worked in their position for a long time.
Similar to vacation time, sick leave cannot be used until it has been accumulated. If sick leave is used excessively, disciplinary action may be taken.
How can you qualify for Personal Emergency Leave (PEL) in Ontario, and what does it entail?
In Ontario, employees are eligible for up to three days of paid leave if they are unable to perform their job duties due to any of the following reasons:
- Medical evaluation, monitoring, or COVID-19-related therapy, including vaccination and recovery from side effects.
- Following a public health directive.
- Caring for a family member who is ill or injured, such as a parent, child, spouse, or sibling.
- Death or passing of a relative.
- Physical injury or illness.
- An employer directive due to concern that the employee may expose others at work.
It’s important to note that if your employer already provides paid leave for the aforementioned reasons, those days don’t count towards your eligibility for PEL. Additionally, many employees may not be aware of their entitlement to PEL and may mistakenly believe they don’t qualify if they work part-time or are new to their position. It’s also worth noting that sick leave cannot be used until it has accumulated, and excessive use may result in disciplinary action.
What are some reasons for taking sick leave?
Employees may request sick leave for personal illnesses, accidents, or medical emergencies, regardless of whether they are caused by the employee or uncontrollable external factors. For instance, even if the injury was caused by the employee’s own negligence, they would still be eligible for sick leave if they injured themselves while water skiing to impress friends.
Even if it is not a medical emergency, employees are often allowed to use the absence for pre-planned (elective) surgery if it is necessary due to an illness or accident.
However, sick leave cannot be used for cosmetic procedures that are not related to illnesses or injuries or are not medically necessary.
The Duration of Sick Leave Entitlement
The duration of sick leave depends on whether an employee is working full-time or part-time. In a calendar year, employees are entitled to up to three full days of job-protected unpaid sick leave.
It’s important to note that the three days of leave cannot be extended. Even if an employee starts working in the middle of a calendar year, they are still eligible for three days of leave for the remainder of the year.
Unused sick days cannot be carried over to the following year, and they must be used within the same calendar year. The three days of leave do not need to be used consecutively, and employees may take them in one-day, several-day, or fractional increments. However, a partial day taken by an employee may be counted as a full day of sick leave by the employer.
Proof of Eligibility for Sick Leave
Employers may request evidence of eligibility criteria as proof of sick leave from employees. The reasonableness of such a request will depend on various factors, such as the duration of the leave, the pattern of absences, the availability and cost of evidence, and other relevant circumstances.
What is Considered as Acceptable Proof of Eligibility in Ontario?
When an employee requests personal emergency leave, their employer may ask for documentation to support the need for the absence. For instance, in the event of a death, the employer may request a copy of the death certificate or obituary. Other examples of “reasonable in the circumstances” evidence include:
- A prescription notices from a pharmacy
- A company-provided form for emergency leave.
The reasonableness of the evidence requested may depend on factors such as the duration of the absence, whether there is a pattern of absences, the availability of evidence, and the cost of obtaining such evidence.
In this blog post, we have discussed the ways in which employees in Ontario can take personal emergency leave (PEL). Many employees are not aware of their entitlement to PEL, which allows them to take up to three days of job-protected unpaid leave for essential absences caused by personal or family sickness, accidents, medical appointments, legal quarantine, and more. We have also covered the eligibility criteria and proof required to apply for PEL, such as evidence of a family member’s illness or injury, or a medical certificate. It is important to note that sick leave cannot be used for cosmetic procedures that are not medically required. We hope this information has been helpful in understanding PEL and its benefits for employees in Ontario.