Sick leave

From time-to-time your employees will require sick leave from work. As an employer, you have a responsibility to manage sickness leave correctly.

It’s vital that you understand your employees’ entitlements to time off for sickness. If you don’t provide the correct leave, you could land yourself in an employment tribunal for breach of contract.

In this guide, we’ll explore the differences between unpaid and paid sick leave in Canada. Your employees’ rights, and how to reduce sick leave.

What is sick leave?

According to the Canadian Government website, the definition of sick leave is a form of job-protected leave that protects an employees’ income when they’re unable to work. Sick leave can be paid or unpaid. And it can be used for several reasons including illness, injury, or medical emergency.

Are medical appointments sick leave?

Sick leave days can be used for medical appointments due to illness, injury or medical emergency. As with other types of sick leave, these leave days are job-protected.

Are casuals entitled to sick leave?

Casual employees are hired for a period of less than 90 working days a year – typically over the holidays.

Due to these limited hours, these workers don’t get the same rights as full-time employees. Casual employees aren’t eligible for any sort of sick leave.

Do you get full pay on sick leave?

In most cases, there’s no requirement to provide full pay when an employee is off sick. However, the following sectors are regulated by the federal government.

Employees in these sectors are entitled to five days paid sick leave:

  • Air transportation.
  • Banks (including some authorized foreign banks).
  • Feed and seed mills, feed warehouses and grain-seen cleaning plants.
  • Canada Post Corporation.
  • Port services, marine shipping, ferries, tunnels, oil and gas pipelines that cross international or provincial borders.
  • Radio and television broadcasting.
  • Railway and road services that cross provincial or international borders.
  • Telecommunications.
  • Uranium mining.
  • Parliament (Senate, House of Commons and the Library of Parliament).

What is unpaid sick leave?

Unpaid sick leave is different to annual leave, employees can’t plan when they’re going to be unwell. Unpaid sick leave is job-protected for time someone is off work.

But they aren’t paid for the time they don’t work.

Across Ontario and British Columbia, your staff are entitled to three days unpaid sick leave. In Alberta, the entitlement is 10 days.

Employment Insurance (EI) sick leave benefits

If your employees don’t qualify for paid sick leave, they can receive financial assistance through Employment Insurance (EI) sick leave benefits.

They could be entitled to 15 weeks leave benefits of 55% of their earning (maximum of $595 a week) if they’re unable to work for medical reasons.

To qualify, your employee must provide a medical certificate which proves they’re unable to work.

What happens when sick leave runs out?

If one of your employees’ has used their entitlement of leave days during a year and require further days off, you could offer it as annual leave.

There is no legal requirement that states you must do this, it’s dependent on the contract. It also depends on how many annual leave days they have left.

What is pregnancy sick leave entitlement?

If one of your employees is pregnant, they may have reasons for sick leave before their maternity leave, such as:

  • Morning sickness.
  • Medical complications. A doctor may advise an employee to take some time off work.

Employees are entitled to 15 weeks leave if they are unable to work due to medical reasons linked to pregnancy. This can be taken prior to the 17 weeks unpaid leave they are also entitled to.

Can an employer ask for the reason for sick leave?

You can ask for a doctors’ note for any sick leave your employees require. However, you aren’t legally authorized to ask why they are wanting to apply for sick leave. At the end of the day, it’s none of your business.

If any employee is off work regularly with sickness, you may start to suspect abuse of sick leave. Therefore, you may want to ask the reason for the sick leave or ask for a doctor’s note.

What is abuse of sick leave?

Employees must let you know or give you a doctors’ note if they aren’t going be to be in due to sickness. If they fail to do this on a regular basis, this could be abuse of sick leave.

Abuse of sick leave is also known as absenteeism. Absenteeism is when you have a member of staff who frequently doesn’t turn up for work without a good reason.

How to reduce sick leave

Although you don’t want staff to feel pressured into coming to work when they’re ill, there are steps you can take to reduce absenteeism.

Make sure you have a clear policy for managing sick leave in your employee handbook.

This should include the following:

  • Make it clear what the application for sick leave process is – the need for a doctors’ note or sick leave email.
  • Include disciplinary procedures for any abuse of sick leave.
  • Explain your method for recording and measuring every sick leave absence.

If an employee is off for a few weeks, maintain regular contact. This is reassuring and will increase confidence before they return.

You don’t always have to punish for someone’s first offence of sickness abuse, hold a return-to-work interview to find out if there’s a reason why they are regularly taking time off.

Get help with your sick leave management today with BrightHR

It’s important that you get your sick leave policy right. Staff have a right to have time off for sickness, but you also need to make sure they aren’t abusing that right.

If you need assistance with sick leave management, BrightHR has several tools which will make the whole process easier for you.

Our sick leave tool and lateness allows you to manage employee absences in seconds.

Contact us on 18882204924 or book a demo today.

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