Personal Emergency Leave

If you work in the province of Ontario and the company falls under its jurisdiction, you may be covered under the Employment Standards Act, 2000. The Act sets minimum standards that an employer must comply with. If the employer fails to do so, you can file a claim on line and without cost with the Ministry of Labour against the company.
There may be situations when you or the employer do not agree with the officer’s decision, in that case, both parties have a right to appeal the officer’s decision to Ontario Labour Relations Board within 30 days. It does not cost the employee any money but the employer may have to pay the money to the Ministry if it is found to be owing. The Board’s decision is final and binding on both parties.
If you work for an employer who employs 50 or more employees on a regular basis, you may be entitled to take 10 days of unpaid job-protected leave each calendar year for certain emergencies and urgent matters. The 50 employees do not have to be full time. They can be part-time or casual employees or working at different locations.
Following are some of the reasons for which the employee may be entitled to unpaid personal emergency leave:
.           Personal illness, injury or medical emergency or
.           Death, illness, injury, medical emergency or urgent matter relating to the following family members:
·           A spouse*;
·           A parent, step-parent, foster parent, child, step-child, foster child, grandparent, step-grandparent, grandchild or step-grandchild of the employee or the employee’s spouse;
·           The spouse of an employee’s child;
·           A brother or sister of the employee;
·           A relative of the employee who is dependent on the employee for care or assistance.
*Note: “spouse” includes both married and unmarried couples, of the same sex or opposite sex.
It does not matter if the illnesses, injuries and medical emergencies of an employee or of the specified family member were the result of employee’s own actions or by factors beyond his or her control. The employee can also take leave for pre-planned surgery, although, technically not an emergency but still due to illness or injury. However, employees are not entitled to personal emergency leave for medically unnecessary cosmetic surgery.
The employee can take the leave due to urgent matters such as death, illness, injury or medical emergency for himself or herself or for family member as defined. The urgent matter can be defined as unplanned happenings out of the control of the employee that requires immediate attention or else it may cause emotional distress and may carry negative consequences.
If the employee’s contract of employment offers him or her greater benefit, the contract applies rather than the personal emergency leave under the Act. However, if the contract does not provide greater right or benefit under the Act, the provision of the Act applies. For instance, if the employee is entitled to three paid sick days and three paid bereavement leave days per year but does not provide job protected time off for any other reasons, the Act’s provision will apply since it provides 10 days off even though they are unpaid but the job itself is protected.
The employees are entitled to 10 unpaid days off for personal emergency leave whether they are full time or part-time employees. It does not matter how long they have been employed, they are still entitled to 10 days in a calendar year. The employees cannot carry the unused days from one year to the next. They can take one day or more at a time. If the employee takes only part of a day off, the employer may count it as one for determining his or her entitlement.
The employee must inform the employer as soon as possible when taking the personal emergency leave. It need not be in writing. The employer cannot taken against the employee for taking the leave but has the right to be informed properly. If the employee fails to do so, the employer may take action for not being informed properly but not for taking the leave.
The employer has the right to ask for a proof for taking the leave. Employees who take the leave are entitled to the protection under the Act. Any action by the employer against the employee is a contravention of the Act.   
This information is only provided to guide you about your entitlements under the Employment Standards Act, 2000 and should not be considered as a legal advice.

This article is provided by Rajinder K. Batra, who is a retired Employment Standards Officer with the Ministry of Labour with 15 years experience in these matters.

If you have any questions regarding your employment, please contact the writer by e-mail at [email protected]

If you don’t have access to e-mail; you can fax your question at (905) 331-1805.

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