A leave of absence allows employees to be able to take paid or unpaid time off from work, without their job being at risk. Whether they are hired on a full-time, part-time, indeterminate or term basis, an employee may be eligible for a leave of absence. There may also be corresponding income replacement through Employment Insurance. Notably, Ontario’s Human Rights Code protects employees from being discriminated against for taking a leave of absence, including for example maternity leave, parental leave, or sick leave.
Ontario’s Employment Standards Act (“ESA”) details entitlements to a variety of different job-protected leave benefits. These include:
- Pregnancy Leave
- Parental Leave
- Family Medical Leave
- Organ Donor Leave
- Family Caregiver Leave
- Critical Illness Leave
- Child Death Leave
- Crime-Related Child Disappearance Leave
- Domestic Or Sexual Violence Leave
- Sick Leave
- Family Responsibility Leave
- Bereavement Leave
- Emergency Leave: Declared Emergencies and Infectious Disease Emergencies
- Reservist Leave
Each of these types of leave has different length entitlements. Additionally, each of them interacts in its own nuanced way with employees’ vacation time, which is technically another type of ESA protected leave. Navigating the time requirements and leave interactions is difficult for anyone, even qualified employment counsel.
When an employee requests a specific type of leave, an employer is generally obligated to accommodate and hold the employee’s position open for them until they finish their leave. This can lead to employers being stuck in tricky predicaments where they need to balance their legal requirements with their company’s staffing needs. This is where the guidance of a good employment lawyer is crucial.
In addition to the job protected ESA leaves, employers are free to offer enhanced leave benefits through employment contracts, such as paid sick leave. This is usually done to offset the fact that ESA leaves are generally unpaid, and employers want to be fair to their employees in times where said employees are forced to take a leave of absence from work. This can sometimes complicate an already complex leave scenario even further.
Whether it is for contract or policy development, or in response to litigation, our lawyers have a breadth of experience in guiding both employers and employees about on of absence and are happy to assist with these matters.