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Do I get time off for illnesses and other personal emergencies?

Ontario's Employment Standards Act (ESA) calls time off for illnesses and other personal emergencies "personal emergency leave". You have the right to personal emergency leave if:

  • you're covered by the ESA, and
  • you work for a company that regularly employs at least 50 workers.

You can take up to 10 days off in each year as personal emergency leave. This can be because of your own needs or the needs of a family member.

Taking part of a day as leave

If you only take part of a day, your employer can count it as one of your 10 days.

For example, if you go to work and leave early because you're sick, your employer can count this as one of your 10 days of personal emergency leave for the year.

But your employer still has to pay you for the hours you worked.

Getting paid

The ESA does not say that your employer has to pay you when you take personal emergency leave.

You might have the right to be paid if:

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Next Steps: 

1. Find out if you're covered by the Employment Standards Act

Ontario's Employment Standards Act (ESA) has rules about minimum standards that employers must follow. These include rules about personal emergency leave.

But not all jobs are covered by the ESA. And, for some jobs, only parts of the ESA apply.

Use the Ministry of Labour's online tool called Industries and Jobs with Exemptions or Special Rules to find out:

  • if your job is covered by the ESA
  • which ESA rules apply to you

You can also call the Ministry's Employment Standards Information Centre at 1-800-531-5551, 416-326-7160, or 1-866-567-8893 (TTY).

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2. Find out how you can use personal emergency leave

You can use personal emergency leave if you:

  • are sick or injured
  • have a medical emergency

A medical emergency can include surgery that is scheduled in advance. But it must be surgery that you need to have.

Time off because of a family member

You can use personal emergency leave because a family member:

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

What is an "urgent matter"

Something is an urgent matter if:

  • it wasn't planned and it's out of your control, and
  • there could be serious problems if nothing is done to deal with it.

Here are some examples of an urgent matter:

  • your babysitter cancels and there's no one to look after your child
  • your child is having problems at school and you have to have a meeting at the school during your work hours
  • the police charged your sister's ex-partner with threatening her and you need to tell the police why the ex-partner shouldn't get out on bail
  • your spouse has had a heart attack and the hospital needs you to make decisions about treatment
  • you have an elderly parent with Alzheimer's disease and their neighbour calls you to say that your parent is being evicted and the locks are being changed
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3. Find out which family members this applies to

The Employment Standards Act (ESA) includes the following people as family members for personal emergency leave:

  • your spouse, including a common-law or same-sex partner
  • your child or spouse's child, including a stepchild or foster child
  • 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
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4. Tell your employer when you need personal emergency leave

Tell your employer as soon as you know you need to take personal emergency leave.

If you have to start your leave before talking to your employer, contact them as soon as you can to say you need the leave.

Tell your employer why you need personal emergency leave and for how long.

Proving that you told your employer

If you speak to your employer in person or by phone, make sure that you also send your employer an email or give them a note to confirm when you spoke and what you said.

That way, you have proof that you told your employer about needing personal emergency leave. This will help you if your employer tries to punish you for taking time off work.

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5. Get proof about needing personal emergency leave

Your employer can ask you to prove that you need personal emergency leave. What you need to show your employer depends on your situation, for example:

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

So, you might need to get:

  • a doctor's note
  • a letter from your child's school
  • a police report
  • hospital emergency department records

Proving your own illness or injury

If you need to give your employer a doctor's note, it should include:

  • how long you need to be away or how long you needed, if you've already been away
  • when you went to the doctor
  • whether the doctor signing the note saw you in person

The law says that your employer does not have the right to know about your diagnosis or treatment.

Proving a family member's illness or injury

You don't have to give your employer a doctor’s note about a family member. You also don't have to tell your employer about their diagnosis or treatment.

But your employer can ask you to tell them:

  • the name of the family member
  • how your family member is related to you
  • that you need to be away from work because your family member is sick or injured
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Reviewed: 
January, 2016

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