Personal Emergency Leave for Workers in Ontario

On the Radar (CLEO)

Many workers don't know about their right to take personal emergency leave. And people may think that they don't have this right because they work part-time or are new at their job.

This month's On the Radar is about personal emergency leave, who gets it, and how it can be used.

Workers who are covered

Workers who are covered by the Employment Standards Act (ESA) may have a right to personal emergency leave.

The ESA sets minimum standards for most workers in Ontario. But not all jobs are covered by the ESA. And, for some jobs, only parts of the ESA apply.

Workers can use the Ministry of Labour's online guide called Industries and Jobs with Exemptions or Special Rules to find out:

  • if a job is covered by the ESA
  • which ESA rules apply

Personal emergency leave for 10 days each year

The ESA calls time off for illness and other personal emergencies "personal emergency leave". Personal emergency leave can be up to 10 days off each year. At least 2 of these days must be paid.

Workers can use the leave because they need it for themselves or because of the needs of a family member.

Paid personal emergency leave for 2 days each year

Workers have the right to be paid for 2 days of personal emergency leave each year if they've been working for their employer for at least one week.

But some workers might have the right to be paid for more than 2 days of personal emergency leave if:

What personal emergency leave can be used for

Workers can take personal emergency leave for:

  • illness or injury
  • a medical emergency

A medical emergency includes surgery that's set up in advance for medical reasons.

Workers can also take personal emergency leave if a family member has an "urgent matter".

An urgent matter is something that:

  • wasn't planned and is out of the worker's control, and
  • could result in serious problems if nothing is done to deal with it.

For example, it might be an urgent matter if:

  • a worker's babysitter cancels and there's no one to look after the child
  • a family member dies

Proving the need for a leave

Employers can ask workers to prove that they need personal emergency leave. But they can only ask for proof that's "reasonable in the circumstances".

What's reasonable depends on the situation, for example:

  • why a worker needs the leave
  • how long they need the leave to be
  • whether they can get proof of why they need the leave
  • how much it would cost to get proof

Employers can't ask for a medical note from a doctor, registered nurse, or psychologist.

If an employer does not follow the law

If an employer has not followed the ESA, a worker may be able to make a claim with the Ministry of Labour.

For example, a worker may be able to make a claim if their employer has:

  • not paid what they owe
  • punished them for asking the employer to respect their rights

Getting legal help

Workers may want to get legal help or advice about their rights as workers. And if a worker has been fired, it's a good idea to get legal advice.

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