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Your rights at work

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What if I need a few days off for illness and other personal emergencies?

The ESA gives some workers time off for illnesses and certain kinds of personal emergencies. The time off is called a "leave of absence" or a leave.

You may be able to take the following short leaves of absence each calendar year:

  • 3 days of sick leave
  • 3 days of family responsibility leave
  • 2 days of bereavement leave
  • 10 days of domestic or sexual violence leave

A calendar year means between January 1 and December 31. But you get the same number of days each year even if you started working for your employer partway through the year.

The ESA says that you have the right to be paid for the first 5 days of domestic or sexual violence leave each year. The ESA does not say that your employer has to pay you for any other time that you take as a leave. But you might have the right to be paid if:

  • you are in a union
  • you have a workplace policy or employment contract that gives you this right

If you only take part of a day, your employer can count it as one of your leave days. For example, if you go to work and leave early because you are sick, your employer can count this as one of your 3 days of sick leave for the year.

Sick leave

You may be able to take sick leave if you have worked for your employer for at least 2 weeks in a row.

You can use up to 3 days of sick leave if you:

  • are sick or injured
  • have a medical emergency

A medical emergency includes surgery that is set up in advance, if you need it for medical reasons.

Your employer can require you to get a medical note as proof of your need for sick leave.

Leave for a family emergency or death

You may be able to take family responsibility leave or bereavement leave if you have worked for your employer for at least 2 weeks in a row.

You can use up to 3 days of family responsibility leave because a family member:

  • is sick or injured
  • has a medical emergency
  • has an "urgent matter"

Something is an urgent matter if:

  • it was not planned and is out of your control, and
  • there could be serious problems if nothing is done to deal with it.

For example, it might be an urgent matter if your babysitter cancels and there is no one to look after your child.

You can use up to 2 days of bereavement leave because a family member has died.

The ESA includes the following people as family members for family responsibility leave or bereavement leave:

  • your spouse, including a common-law or same-sex partner
  • your child or spouse's child, including a stepchild or foster child
  • your child's spouse
  • your grandchild or spouse's grandchild, including a step-grandchild
  • your brother or sister
  • your parent or spouse's parent, including a step-parent or foster parent
  • your grandparent or spouse's grandparent, including a step-grandparent
  • a relative who depends on you to care for them or give them personal assistance

Domestic or sexual violence leave

To get domestic or sexual violence leave, you must have worked for your employer for at least 13 weeks in a row.

You may be able to take the leave if you or your child, under 18 years of age, has:

  • experienced domestic or sexual violence
  • been threatened with domestic or sexual violence

Your child includes a stepchild, foster child, and a child you are the legal guardian of.

There are 2 lengths of domestic or sexual violence leave you may be able to take each calendar year. This means that you may be able to take:

  • up to 10 days, and
  • up to 15 weeks.

You can take domestic or sexual violence leave only for the following reasons:

  • to get medical care because of an injury or disability caused by the violence
  • to get help from a victim services organization
  • to get psychological or other professional counselling
  • to move, permanently or for a short time
  • to deal with the police or the legal system because of the violence

The ESA says that you have the right to be paid for the first 5 days of domestic or sexual violence leave each year.

Telling your employer and proving you need a leave of absence

Tell your employer as soon as you know you need a leave of absence. If you have to start your leave before talking to your employer, contact them as soon as you can to say:

  • why you need the leave, and
  • for how long.

If you speak to your employer in person or by phone, send an email or give them a note as soon as you can to confirm:

  • when you spoke, and
  • what you said.

Your employer can require you to prove that you need a leave of absence. But they can only require you to give proof that's "reasonable in the circumstances".

What is reasonable depends on your situation, for example:

  • why you need the leave
  • how long you need the leave to be
  • any past leaves you have had or periods you have been away from work
  • whether you can get proof of why you need the leave
  • how much it would cost to get proof

Examples of proof

If you need proof for a sick leave, you might need to get a note signed by a doctor or other health professional. The note should include:

  • how long you need the leave to be
  • when you went to the health professional
  • whether the health professional who signed the note saw you in person

Your employer does not have the right to know about your medical diagnosis or treatment.

If you need proof for a family responsibility leave, your employer can require you to tell them:

  • the name of the family member
  • how your family member is related to you
  • the reason you need to be away from work

If the leave is because your family member is sick or injured, your employer does not have the right to know about their diagnosis or treatment.

Other examples of proof you might need for family responsibility leave include a letter from your child's school or a police report.

To prove you need bereavement leave, you might have to show a death certificate, death notice, or obituary.

To prove you need domestic or sexual violence leave, you might have to show:

  • police reports
  • court documents
  • a letter from a health professional or a counsellor