Unpaid Leave

Sometimes your employees will have personal life responsibilities they must deal with. This could be a range of things such as a sick child, a dependent needing care, or a personal medical emergency.

If they have used up all their annual leave entitlement, they’ll be required to take the time off as unpaid leave. This is sometimes called unpaid vacation.

In this guide we’ll explain the reasons for taking unpaid leave, your employees’ entitlements to unpaid leave, and how your employees may request it.

What is an unpaid leave of absence?

Unpaid absence is when one of your employees requires leave from work for events that aren’t covered under their mandatory benefits. An example of a mandatory benefit is paid leave, such as vacation.

Reasons for taking unpaid leave

As an employer, you sometimes must grant unpaid and job-protected leave by law. Some events which require forced unpaid leave can include:

  • Undertaking jury duty.
  • Spending time with a child under 18 (parental leave).
  • Dealing with an emergency involving a dependent.
  • Performing reservists leave if you are a member of the forces.

A career break or sabbatical, along with medical appointments are also reasons for unpaid leave. However, unlike the above, they are discretionary – meaning you don’t have to grant the leave request.

Unpaid leave policy

You need to have a clear leave policy; and include it in your employee handbook or contract. This should include a policy for both paid and unpaid leave, as well as the process which your employees request unpaid leave. Your policy should include the following:

  • Paid and unpaid leave entitlements.
  • Unpaid leave of absence form.
  • How to request time off.
  • Which events allow unpaid leave.
  • The process for return-to-work interviews.
  • How you’ll support staff returning to work.

How to request unpaid leave

A common way for employees to request unpaid leave is through a leave of absence letter. In this letter your employee will outline the reason for the leave and how long they expect to be off for.

They may also include who they are formally passing their duties over to during their period of leave.

Employee entitlement to unpaid leave throughout Canada

Unpaid leave entitlements vary throughout the different provinces. Make sure your unpaid leave policy matches the local legislation.

Failing to do so can result in a breach of contract and your employee taking you to an employment tribunal. A range of punishments throughout Canada can be given out.

You can be fined up to $10,000 depending on the number of violations in Ontario and British Columbia.

In Alberta, you can be fined up to $6000 for a level three offence.

Ontario: Employees are entitled to the following unpaid and job-protected leave:

  • 3-days sick leave.
  • 3-days family responsibility leave.
  • 2-days bereavement leave.
  • Reservists leave, no set entitlement.
  • 28-weeks family medical/compassionate leave.
  • 17-weeks pregnancy leave.

British Columbia: Employees are entitled to the following unpaid and job-protected leave:

  • 3-days sick leave.
  • 5-days family responsibility leave.
  • 3-days bereavement leave.
  • Reservists leave, 20 days.
  • Up to 27-weeks compassionate care leave.
  • 17-weeks pregnancy leave.

Alberta : Employees are entitled to the following unpaid and job-protected leave:

  • 10-days sick leave.
  • 5-days family responsibility leave.
  • 3-days bereavement leave.
  • Reservists leave, 20 days.
  • 27-weeks compassionate care leave.
  • 16-weeks pregnancy leave.

Get help with your absence management today with BrightHR

Your staff has a right to unpaid time-off when the require it. So, it’s important that you get your unpaid leave policy right. Not managing it correctly can leave you with unhappy employees, or expensive fines to pay.

If you need assistance with your leave management, BrightHR has a tool which will make the whole process easier and quicker for you.

Our sick leave and lateness tools allow you to manage leave for your employees as and when the require it.

Contact us on 18882204924 or book a demo today.


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