COVID-19: Reasons Employees Can Take Sick Leave in Ontario

Peninsula Team

March 20 2020

What is sick leave?

In Ontario, employees are entitled to three unpaid days of sick leave per year regardless of when in the year they begin their employment, as long as they’ve worked for their employer for at least two consecutive weeks. Sick leave can be taken for personal illness, injury or a medical emergency. Ontarians cannot use this leave to take care of ill or injured family members, however there are other leaves employees can take for this reason.

About Sick Leave

The Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA) states that sick leave is job-protected, meaning employees cannot be terminated for taking this leave. Sick leave can be taken by employees regardless of whether their illness or injury was their own fault. Employees can also use sick leave to seek treatment for a health condition, including pre-planned elective surgery. Sick leave, however, cannot be taken for cosmetic surgery that is not medically necessary.

Employees may also use sick leave for mental health reasons such as stress or mental illness. Employers may ask for a medical note to verify that the employee is not well enough to come into work as long as the circumstances are reasonable.


The Ontario government has passed the Employment Standards Amendments Act (Infectious Disease Emergencies), 2020, which allows employees to take job-protected sick leave if they need to self-isolate or quarantine due to the coronavirus and if they need to stay at home to take care of children during school closures. This leave is job-protected, meaning that employees cannot be terminated for taking it.

Unlike with regular sick leave, employers are not allowed to ask employees to provide a medical note. Since the quarantine period for COVID-19 is 14 days, businesses will have to accommodate their employee’s absence for this time. These measures are retroactive to the first COVID-19 case in Ontario, on January 25, 2020.

Want to know your employer obligations surrounding COVID-19?

Are you unsure of how to manage an employee that is sick or in quarantine? We are helping business affected by the coronavirus with HR concerns such as temporary lay offs, absences and remote work policies. Get advice on how to run your business during the COVID-19 pandemic, call our experts today: 1 (833) 247-3652.

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