10 days paid sick leave introduced for almost a million Canadian employees

Sunira Chaudhri

Sunira Chaudhri

Toronto Employment Lawyer

To qualify, employees need only be employed for 30 days prior to Dec. 31 in order to earn their first three paid sick days. From there, each month starting Feb. 1, 2023, continuously-employed federally-regulated employees will earn a paid sick day each month to a maximum of 10 days in 2023.

If you work for a major bank, courier company, telecom, airline or trucking company, you likely have a new employee perk coming your way.

 

Almost a million employees in Canada are federally regulated and by Dec. 31 these employees will be eligible for up to 10 paid sick days a year.

 

Federally-regulated employers will be left to bear the costs associated with the implementation of this new employee benefit.

 

To qualify, employees need only be employed for 30 days prior to Dec. 31 in order to earn their first three paid sick days. From there, each month starting Feb. 1, 2023, continuously-employed federally-regulated employees will earn a paid sick day each month to a maximum of 10 days in 2023.

 

This announcement, made by the Government of Canada this week, will impact 19,000 federally-regulated employers. According to the new law, a sick day can be taken as a result of personal injury or illness of an employee, to attend medical appointments and for periods of quarantine. Notably, employers are only permitted to request a sick note from an employee after the employee has taken at least five consecutive sick days.

 

While many employers take time to adjust to the new costs associated with this law, the lack of medically-supported sick days could be even more concerning especially in the context of remote workers.

 

If an employee is sick from time to time, there is often no need for alarm. But, if an employee is habitually sick and an employer is not permitted to request a sick note to substantiate the illness, it leaves the employer throwing darts in the dark. The employer is left completely unaware as to whether the employee is fit to return to work or may need a workplace accommodation.

 

Employers are, after all, required by the Human Rights Commission to make inquiries of employees that may require a medical accommodation in the workplace. This is because employers engage with employees on a daily or weekly basis.

 

If an employee is not well it is often first noticed by fellow co-workers. Employers, by law, are required to ask employees that may present as unwell, if they are doing okay or if they need additional help or resources, including medical support.

 

The new federal sick day policy that explicitly removes the requirement for medical notes for less than five consecutive days of sickness will assuredly have a chilling effect on employers making any inquiries at all.

 

While every employee has a right to privacy, including the nature and diagnosis of an illness, this privacy right must be balanced against the long-settled law on medical accommodation in this country. Employers should be encouraged to provide resources to employees that may need them instead of being discouraged from supporting employees when unwell by asking no questions at all.

 

Employers that do not have policies reflecting the new laws should move quickly to implement the mandated paid sick day laws in your workplace. Employers that are mindful of workplace culture will craft these policies to seek employee involvement in accommodation processes in the workplace.

 

If an employee is taking 10 days of paid sick time a year (or more) there very well could be a reasonable cause for concern by an employer. These concerns should not be ignored but addressed head on.

 

Have a workplace issue? Maybe I can help! Email me at sunira@worklylaw.com and your question may be featured in a future column.

 

The content of this article is general information only and is not legal advice.

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