Leaves of Absence

What Is a Leave of Absence?

Under the Ontario Employment Standards Act (the “ESA”), all employees are entitled to take an unpaid leave of absence, provided they meet the requirements of the leave. This means that if you need to take one of these protected leaves, your employer cannot refuse your request or terminate your employment for reasons related to the leave.

During your leave, you are not actively at work, however, you maintain your employee status with your employer and have a right to return to your previous job.

What Kinds of Leaves Does the ESA Protect?

The ESA protects the following types of leave:

  • Pregnancy and parental leave (click here for more information);
  • Sick leave (up to 3 days per year);
  • Bereavement leave (up to 2 days per year because of the death of a close family member);
  • Family responsibility leave (up to 3 days per year because of an illness, injury, or urgent matter relating to certain relatives);
  • Family caregiver leave (up to 8 weeks per year to care or support certain close family members);
  • Family medical leave (up to 28 weeks per year to care for or support a family member who has a serious medical condition with a significant risk of death);
  • Critical illness leave (up to 37 weeks to care for a critically ill minor child, or 17 weeks to care for a critically ill adult);
  • Child death leave (up to 104 weeks);
  • Crime-related child disappearance leave (up to 104 weeks);
  • Domestic or sexual violence leave (up to 5 paid days, and 15 unpaid weeks);
  • Organ donor leave (up to 13 weeks, for the purpose of undergoing surgery to donate all or part of certain organs. This leave can be extended for a total leave of 26 weeks if medically necessary); and,
  • Reservist leave (time necessary to engage in the operation the reservist has been deployed to).

Most, though not all, of these leaves require employees to have worked for their employer for a minimum of six consecutive months to qualify for the leave. The leaves apply equally to part-time, full-time, and contract employees.

Does My Employer Have to Pay Me Throughout My Leave?

Most of the ESA’s leaves are unpaid. Even though your employer does not have pay you through these leaves, you may be eligible for payment through Employment Insurance benefits. You should contact Service Canada at 1-800-206-7218 to find out whether you qualify for these benefits.

What Are My Rights?

If an employer refuses an employee’s legitimate request for a leave, or threatens to fire, intimidates, or punishes the employee for requesting such a leave, you could be entitled to damages, including reinstatement to your position if your employment was terminated. As well, you may be entitled to human rights damages if the protected leave is related to a prohibited ground of discrimination (such as gender discrimination for pregnancy leave, or family status discrimination for critical illness leave).

Why You Should Contact Us

Contact us if you have questions about taking a leave of absence, or if you feel you have been unfairly denied a leave or mistreated as a result of taking a leave. Our experienced employment lawyers are here to help.