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Flu and Your Workplace

This guide is for convenience only. To determine your rights and duties under the law, refer to the relevant acts and regulations: Employment Standards | Occupational Health and Safety

General information

Flu season in Ontario usually begins in October and lasts until March or April.

According to the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, influenza is a serious disease that affects millions of Canadians each year.

For additional health information, please see:
About the Flu – Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care.

Information for workers

Your health and safety rights during flu season

An outbreak of flu does not affect your workplace rights.

As a worker in Ontario, you always have the right to work in a safe and healthy environment. The Occupational Health and Safety Act gives you certain fundamental rights, including:

  • your "right to know" about any potential hazards to which you may be exposed
  • your "right to participate," (to be involved) in identifying and resolving workplace health and safety concerns, and
  • your "right to refuse" unsafe work[*]

[*]Workers in certain occupations such as those responsible for public safety – fire fighters, police, correctional officers and health care workers, for example – have a limited right to refuse work; they can not refuse unsafe work if the alleged danger is considered to be a normal part of the job or if the refusal would endanger the health or safety of another person.

If you think that one of your co-workers has the flu, talk to your supervisor, the Joint Health and Safety Committee (if there is one), or your health and safety representative.

Workers involved in cleaning the workplace must be trained in the safe and appropriate use and handling of cleaning chemicals. Workers required to use personal protective equipment must be trained in the proper use, care and limitations of the equipment.

If you believe that your workplace is unsafe because of a communicable disease, explain your concerns to your supervisor or joint health and safety committee representative.

Staff of the Ministry of Labour and workplace health and safety associations can provide guidance in addressing workplace health and safety concerns.

Your employment rights during a flu outbreak

Employees with concerns about the workplace should first raise any concerns with their employer, union or health and safety representative to discuss available options.

These options may include unpaid leave or sick leave.

Personal emergency leave

Employees’ jobs may be protected by the personal emergency leave provision of the Employment Standards Act, 2000.

Under the Employment Standards Act, 2000, employees who work for employers that regularly employs 50 employees or more have the right to take up to 10 days of unpaid job-protected leave each calendar year with respect to illness, injury and certain other emergencies and urgent matters.

Personal emergency leave can be taken because of personal illness, injury or medical emergency, or the death, illness, injury, medical emergency or urgent matter relating to specified family members. An urgent matter could include a school closure caused by flu.

If you take a personal emergency leave, you must advise your employer as soon as possible. Your employer may require you to provide reasonable evidence that you are eligible for the leave.

Generally, employers have the right to schedule paid vacations for their employees. An employer could decide to schedule a vacation period for one or more employees at any time, including during a period of influenza outbreak. If an employee is already on personal emergency leave, the employer cannot convert the leave into a period of vacation time.

More information on personal emergency leave.

Information for employers

Employers must consider worker health and safety during flu season. An outbreak of disease such as flu does not change employers' responsibilities for workplace health and safety and for meeting employment standards.

Reasonable precautions

Employers have a duty to take every reasonable precaution to protect the health and safety of your workers. Employers must, therefore:

  • put in place the measures needed to protect workers from infectious diseases, including the flu virus
  • inform, instruct and supervise workers so as to protect their health and safety.

More information about reporting requirements.

Coping with the flu – useful links

Health and Community Care

Health care workers

Health care sector employers