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Leaves of Absence

  • Issued: April 2008
  • Content last reviewed: January 2018

Disclaimer

The Employment Standards Act, 2000, known as the ESA, is a law that sets minimum standards for workplaces in Ontario.

If you are protected by the ESA, you may have the right to take unpaid time off from work for the following types of leave: pregnancy, parental, personal emergency, family caregiver, family medical, critical illness, organ donor, reservist, domestic or sexual violence, child death and crime-related child disappearance leave. You may be eligible whether you are a full-time, part-time, permanent or term contract employee.

Pregnancy and Parental leave

Pregnancy leave

Pregnancy leave is up to 17 weeks of job-protected, unpaid time off work. To be eligible, your baby’s expected birth date (“due date”) must be at least 13 weeks after the date you started employment.

Parental leave

As a new parent (e.g., birth parent, adopting parent, person in a relationship with a parent of a child with plans to treat the child as their own) you have the right to take job-protected, unpaid time off work once a child is born or first comes into your care.

To qualify, you must have been employed by your employer for at least 13 weeks before the start of the leave.

Birth mothers who take pregnancy leave are entitled to take up to 61 weeks of parental leave, usually beginning right after their pregnancy leave ends. Birth mothers who do not take pregnancy leave and all other new parents can take up to 63 weeks of parental leave, beginning no later than 78 weeks after the date the child was born or first came into their care. Parents can, but do not have to, take their leave at the same time as the other parent.

Notifying your employer

Except in certain cases, you must inform your employer in writing two weeks before beginning a pregnancy or parental leave. You must also provide your employer with four weeks written notice if you are changing the end date of your leave. If you do not advise your employer how many weeks of leave you plan to take when you give your original two-week notice, the employer will assume that you are taking the full leave of either 61 or 63 weeks. If you want to return sooner, you must give four weeks’ written notice, prior to the date you want to return, to your employer.

NOTE: After starting pregnancy or parental leave, you must take it all at once and cannot split it.

For more information

For more information, please see the chapter on Pregnancy and Parental Leave in Your Guide to the Employment Standards Act, 2000.

Personal emergency leave

Personal emergency leave is job-protected time off work for up to 10 days per calendar year. The first two days of personal emergency leave must be paid.

This leave may be taken for personal illness, injury or medical emergency. It can also be taken for the death, illness, injury, or medical emergency of, or urgent matter relating to, the following family members:

  • your spouse
  • a parent, step-parent, foster parent, child, step-child, foster child, grandparent, step-grandparent, grandchild or step-grandchild of you or your spouse
  • the spouse of your child
  • your brother or sister
  • a relative who is dependent on you for care or assistance.

The 10 days of personal emergency leave do not have to be taken consecutively. For employees employed in automobile manufacturing (vehicles or parts), parts warehousing or auto marshalling, special rules may apply. See Your Guide to the Employment Standards Act, 2000 for more information.

Your employer can count part of a day taken off as a full day of personal emergency leave.

Notifying your employer

You must tell your employer that you will be taking personal emergency leave before it begins, or, if that is not possible, as soon as you can after it begins.

For more information

For more information, please see the chapter on Personal Emergency Leave in Your Guide to the Employment Standards Act, 2000.

Family caregiver leave

Family caregiver leave is unpaid, job-protected time off work to provide care or support to specified family members who have a serious medical condition.

Family caregiver leave may be taken for any of the following family members:

  • your spouse
  • a parent, step-parent, foster parent, child, step-child, foster child, grandparent, step-grandparent, grandchild or step-grandchild of you or your spouse
  • the spouse of your child
  • your brother or sister
  • a relative who is dependent on you for care or assistance.

Family caregiver leave can be up to eight weeks per calendar year with respect to each specified family member.

The eight weeks do not have to be taken consecutively.

You can take the leave in periods of less than a full week (for example, just one day or a couple of days in a week), but if you take any time off for family caregiver leave in a week (which runs from Sunday to Saturday), you will be considered to have used up one week of your eight-week entitlement.

Medical certificate

You are eligible to take family caregiver leave if an individual who is qualified to practice as a physician, registered nurse or psychologist issues a certificate stating that the family member has a serious medical condition, which may include a condition that is chronic or episodic.

The medical certificate must name the individual and state that he or she has a serious medical condition. There is no requirement that the certificate specify what the medical condition is; but it must state that it is “serious.” It is for the patient’s qualified health practitioner to make an assessment as to whether his or her medical condition is “serious.”

If the medical certificate sets out a period during which the individual will have a serious medical condition, the certificate will support absences as family caregiver leave during that period. If no period is set out, the certificate will support absences as family caregiver leave from the date it is issued until the end of the calendar year in which it is issued.

You must provide your employer with a copy of the certificate, if requested.

You may wish to provide the health practitioner with a copy of the “Medical Certificate to Support Entitlement to Family Caregiver Leave, Family Medical Leave, and/or Critical Illness Leave” [197 Kb] form for him or her to fill out. The health practitioner is not required to use this particular form; any certificate that states that the patient has a serious medical condition can be used.

You are responsible for obtaining and paying the costs (if any) of obtaining the certificate. The Ministry of Labour cannot assist you in obtaining the certificate.

Notifying your employer

You must inform your employer in writing that you will take family caregiver leave before it begins, or, if that is not possible, as soon as you can after it begins.

For more information

For more information, please see the chapter on Family Caregiver Leave in Your Guide to the Employment Standards Act, 2000.

Family medical leave

Family medical leave is unpaid, job-protected time off work to provide care or support to certain specified individuals who have a serious medical condition with a significant risk of dying within 26 weeks.

Family medical leave may be taken for any of the following individuals:

  • your spouse
  • your parent, step-parent or foster parent
  • your brother, step-brother, brother-in-law, step-brother-in-law, sister, step-sister, sister-in-law or step-sister-in-law
  • a child, step-child, foster child, son-in-law or daughter-in-law of you or your spouse
  • a grandparent, step-grandparent, grandchild or step-grandchild of you or your spouse
  • your father-in-law, step-father-in-law, mother-in-law or step-mother-in-law
  • an uncle, aunt, nephew or niece of you or your spouse
  • the spouse of your grandchild, uncle, aunt, nephew or niece
  • your spouse’s foster parent
  • any other person who considers you to be like a family member

You may take family medical leave for up to 28 weeks in a 52-week period with respect to each specified individual.

The 28 weeks of family medical leave do not have to be taken consecutively.

A “week” is defined as running from Sunday to Saturday. If you are on a family medical leave and stop providing care or support before the end of the week, you are entitled to stay on leave for the rest of the week. You can return to work before the end of the week only if your employer lets you return. You will be considered to have used up one week of your 28-week entitlement even if you do return to work before the end of the week.

If two or more employees in Ontario take the leave to care for the same person, the 28 weeks must be shared.

Medical certificate and attestation form

For you to be entitled to family medical leave,  a medical doctor or a nurse practitioner must issue a certificate stating that the individual has a serious medical condition with a significant risk of death within 26 weeks. You must provide your employer with a copy of the certificate, if requested. You are responsible for obtaining and paying the costs (if any) of obtaining the certificate. The Ministry of Labour cannot assist you in obtaining the certificate.

You may wish to provide the health practitioner with a copy of the “Medical Certificate to Support Entitlement to Family Caregiver Leave, Family Medical Leave, and/or Critical Illness Leave” [197 Kb] form for him or her to fill out. It is available on the ministry’s website at Ontario.ca/employmentstandards. The health practitioner is not required to use this particular form; any certificate that states that the patient has a serious medical condition with a significant risk of death within 26 weeks can be used.

Family medical leave is available to you whether or not you apply for federal Employment Insurance compassionate care benefits. If you are applying for Employment Insurance (EI) compassionate care benefits, a copy of the medical certificate submitted to Employment and Social Development Canada may also be used for the purpose of supporting your entitlement to family medical leave.

If you take leave for a person who considers you to be like a family member, you must also give your employer, upon request, a copy of a completed Compassionate Care Benefits Attestation form, in which it states that you are considered to be like a family member. This form is available from Employment and Social Development Canada.

Notifying your employer

You must inform your employer in writing that you will be taking family medical leave before it begins, or, if that is not possible, as soon as you can after it begins.

For more information

For more information, please see the chapter on Family Medical Leave in Your Guide to the Employment Standards Act, 2000.

Critical illness leave

Critical illness leave is unpaid, job-protected time off work to provide care or support to a critically ill minor child or adult who is a family member. You must be employed by your employer for at least six consecutive months to be eligible for this leave.

A “minor child” is someone who is under 18 years of age.

“Critically ill” means that a person’s baseline state of health has significantly changed and their life is at risk as a result of an illness or injury

A “family member” includes any of the following:

  • your spouse
  • your parent, step-parent or foster parent
  • your brother, step-brother, brother-in-law, step-brother-in-law, sister, step-sister, sister-in-law or step-sister-in-law
  • a child, step-child, foster child, son-in-law or daughter-in-law of you or your spouse
  • a grandparent, step-grandparent, grandchild or step-grandchild of you or your spouse
  • your father-in-law, step-father-in-law, mother-in-law or step-mother-in-law
  • an uncle, aunt, nephew or niece of you or your spouse
  • the spouse of your grandchild, uncle, aunt, nephew or niece
  • your spouse’s foster parent
  • any other person who considers you to be like a family member

Critical illness leave taken to care for a minor child can be up to 37 weeks in a 52-week period. Critical illness leave taken to care for an adult can be up to 17 weeks in a 52-week period.

If the minor child or adult remains critically ill after the end of the 52-week period, you may be eligible for additional leaves of up to 17 or 37 weeks in subsequent 52-week periods.

The weeks of leave do not have to be taken consecutively.

You can take the leave in periods of less than a full week (for example, just one day or a couple of days in a week), but if you take any time off for critical illness leave in a week (which runs from Sunday to Saturday), you will be considered to have used up one week of your entitlement.

Medical certificate

The leave is available to you if an individual who is qualified to practice as a physician, registered nurse or psychologist:

  • issues a certificate stating that a minor child or adult is critically ill and requires the care or support of one or more family members, and
  • sets out the period during which the minor child or adult requires the care or support.

You must provide your employer with a copy of the certificate, if requested.

You may wish to provide the health practitioner with a copy of the “Medical Certificate to Support Entitlement to Family Caregiver Leave, Family Medical Leave, and/or Critical Illness Leave” [197 Kb] form for him or her to fill out. It is available on the ministry’s website at Ontario.ca/employmentstandards. The health practitioner is not required to use this particular form; any certificate that states that the patient is critically ill, requires the care or support of one or more family members, and sets out the period during which the patient requires the care or support, can be used.

Critical illness leave is available to you whether or not you apply for federal Employment Insurance (EI) benefits for caregivers of critically ill minor children or adults. If you are applying for EI benefits for caregivers of critically ill minor children or adults, a copy of the medical certificate submitted to Employment and Social Development Canada may also be used for the purposes of supporting an entitlement to critical illness leave.

You are responsible for obtaining and paying the costs (if any) of obtaining the certificate. The Ministry of Labour cannot assist you in obtaining the certificate.

Notifying your employer and providing a written plan

If you intend to take critical illness leave, you must inform your employer in writing that you will be taking the leave, and provide a written plan indicating the weeks in which you will be taking it. If it is not possible to do this before starting your leave, you must inform the employer and provide the written plan as soon as you can after starting it. You can change the dates of your leave if you provide the employer with reasonable advance notice in writing, or by asking your employer in writing and receiving written approval.

For more information

For more information, please see the chapter on Critical Illness Leave, in Your Guide to the Employment Standards Act, 2000.

Organ donor leave

Organ donor leave is unpaid, job-protected leave for the purpose of undergoing surgery to donate an organ to a person.

Organ donor leave can be taken to undergo surgery to donate all or part of one of the following organs to a person: kidney, liver, lung, pancreas, small bowel.

Generally, organ donor leave begins on the date of the surgery. It may begin on an earlier date, as specified in a certificate issued by a legally qualified medical practitioner.

Generally speaking, you may take leave for up to 13 weeks. However, you may extend the leave for up to an additional 13 weeks, if you are not yet able to perform the duties of your job because of the organ donation. To extend the leave, you must get a certificate from a legally qualified medical practitioner stating that you are not yet able to perform the duties of your job because of the organ donation, and will be unable to do so for a specified period of time. The leave may be extended more than once, but the total period of extension cannot be more than 13 weeks. Therefore, the maximum leave period is 26 weeks.

Notifying your employer

If possible, you must provide two weeks’ written notice to your employer before beginning the leave or extending it. If that is not possible, you must advise the employer in writing that you are taking the leave or extending the leave as soon as you can after starting or extending it.

For more information

For more information, please see the chapter on Organ Donor Leave in Your Guide to the Employment Standards Act, 2000.

Child death leave

Child death leave is available to employees whose child dies. You are not entitled to the leave if the child dies as a result of a crime and you are charged with the crime or if it is probable, considering the circumstances, that your child was a party to the crime.

An employee may take a leave of up to 104 weeks with respect to the death of a child. Employees must inform their employers in writing that they will take this leave, and provide a written plan indicating the weeks in which the leave will be taken. An employee must take the leave in a single period.

For more information

For more information, please see the chapter on Child Death Leave in Your Guide to the Employment Standards Act, 2000.

Crime-related child disappearance leave

Crime-related child disappearance leave is available to employees whose child disappears and it is probable, considering the circumstances that it resulted from a crime. You must have been employed by your employer for at least six consecutive months to be eligible for this leave. You are not entitled to the leave if you are charged with the crime or if it is probable, considering the circumstances, that your child was a party to the crime.

An employee may take a leave of up to104 weeks for the disappearance of a child. Employees must inform their employers in writing that they will take this leave, and provide a written plan indicating the weeks in which the leave will be taken. An employee must take the leave in a single period.

For more information

For more information, please see the chapter on Crime-Related Child Disappearance Leave in Your Guide to the Employment Standards Act, 2000, availableat Ontario.ca/ESAguide.

Domestic or sexual violence leave

If an employee or an employee’s child has experienced or been threatened with domestic or sexual violence, the employee is entitled to take a leave for particular purposes. To qualify, you must have been employed by your employer for at least 13 weeks before the start of the leave. The leave may only be taken for a reason relating to the violence or threat of violence against the employee or the employee’s child, including:

  • seeking medical attention for a physical or mental injury or disability caused by the violence
  • obtaining services from a victim services organization
  • receiving psychological or other professional counselling
  • relocating, either temporarily or permanently
  • seeking legal or law enforcement assistance, including participation in a criminal or civil trial

An employee may not take the leave if the act(s) of domestic or sexual violence were committed by the employee.

An employee may take up to 10 days and/or 15 weeks of leave within a calendar year for the defined purposes. Your employer can count part of a day taken off as a full day or part of a week as a full week.

The first five days of the leave taken within a calendar year must be paid, and the rest are unpaid.

You must inform your employer in writing that you will be taking the leave before it begins or as soon as possible after it begins.

For more information

For more information, please see the chapter on Domestic or Sexual Violence Leave in Your Guide to the Employment Standards Act, 2000, available at Ontario.ca/ESAguide.

Reservist leave

Employees who are military reservists and who are deployed to an international operation or to an operation within Canada that is or will be providing assistance in dealing with an emergency or its aftermath (including search and rescue operations) are entitled under the ESA to unpaid leave for the time necessary to engage in that operation. In the case of an operation outside Canada, the leave would include pre and post-deployment activities (even if those activities take place within Canada) that are required by the Canadian Forces in connection with that operation.

To be eligible for reservist leave, you must have worked for your employer for at least six consecutive months. Generally, reservists must provide their employer with reasonable advance written notice of the day on which they will begin and end the leave.

For more information

For more information, please see the chapter on Reservist Leave in Your Guide to the Employment Standards Act, 2000.

Interaction between family caregiver, family medical, critical illness, personal emergency, domestic or sexual violence, child death, or crime-related child disappearance leaves

An employee may be entitled to more than one of these leaves for the same event. Each leave is separate and the right to each leave is independent of any right an employee may have to the other leave(s).

Seniority, length of service and length of employment

You continue to earn seniority and credit for length of service and length of employment while on leave.

Employer-provided benefit plans

While you are on any leave other than reservist, your employer must continue to pay employer contributions into certain benefit plans (pension, life and extended health insurance, accidental death and dental plans), unless the plan requires both employer and employee contributions and you advise your employer in writing that you will not be paying your contributions. Employees who are on reservist leave have this right only if the employer postpones the employee’s return to work.

Employment Insurance and other federal benefits

The federal government provides maternity, parental and compassionate care benefits; benefits for caregivers of critically ill minor children or adults; and grants for parents of murdered and missing children. For more information, call (1-800-622-6232) (TTY: 1-800-926-9105).

Can I be fired for taking a leave?

No. If you are eligible, you have the right to take a leave.

You are entitled to be reinstated to the same position you held before your leave if it still exists, or to a comparable position if it does not.

Your employer cannot intimidate you, fire you, suspend you, reduce your pay, punish you in any other way or threaten any of these actions because you take or plan to take any of these leaves.

If this happens, contact the Ministry of Labour.

Contact the Ministry of Labour

If you have questions about the ESA, call the Ministry of Labour’s Employment Standards Information Centre at 416-326-7160, toll free at 1-800-531-5551, or TTY 1-866-567-8893. Service is available in multiple languages.

Information on the ESA can also be found at the Employment Standards section of the Ministry of Labour's website.

To file a claim, you can access the Employment Standards Claim Form online. Claim Forms are available in hardcopy format at ServiceOntario Centres. You may also order a copy through ServiceOntario Publications online, or by calling 1-800-668-9938; Hearing Impaired TTY 1-800-268-7095.

To access the Employment Standards Act, 2000 visit the Ontario government e-Laws website.

Disclaimer: This resource has been prepared to help employees and employers understand some of the minimum rights and obligations established under the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA) and regulations. It is not legal advice. It is not intended to replace the ESA or regulations and reference should always be made to the official version of the legislation. Although we endeavor to ensure that the information in this resource is as current and accurate as possible, errors do occasionally occur. The ESA provides minimum standards only. Some employees may have greater rights under an employment contract, collective agreement, the common law or other legislation. Employers and employees may wish to obtain legal advice.