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I have COVID-19. Can I take time off work?

I have COVID-19. Can I take time off work?
Reviewed: 
September 21, 2020
Answer

If you think you have COVID-19, it's important to get tested at an assessment centre. You can do an online assessment first or call Telehealth Ontario at 1-866-797-0000 before getting tested.

Once you've done this, you'll get instructions from your local public health department. You must stay in your home until you get a positive or negative test. This usually takes 1 or 2 days but can take longer.

If your test is positive, public health will order you to self-isolate. This means that you must not leave your home for 14 days for any reason. It's against the law to leave your home when you've been ordered to self-isolate.

Taking time off work

If you have vacation time or paid sick leave through your employer, you may be able to use them while you're sick with COVID-19.  

If you don't have paid sick leave, the Ontario Employment Standards Act says that you get at least 3 sick days per year. These sick days are unpaid, unless your employment contract says something different.

And during COVID-19, there's a new unpaid leave called the Infectious Disease Emergency Leave that you can take for as long as you have COVID-19. You can use this leave even if you have paid sick leave. If you do, this will keep you from using your sick days when you don't need to.

Taking the Infectious Disease Emergency Leave

Your employer can't fire or punish you:

  • if you've been ordered to stay home while you wait for your test results, or
  • because you must self-isolate for 14 days.

You have the right to the unpaid the Infectious Disease Emergency Leave until you're told you can return to work. All you have to do is tell your employer that you're taking this leave because of COVID-19. If possible, it's best to do this before you start taking the leave.

Your employer can ask for "reasonable" evidence. For example, they can ask for proof such as a copy of an order from public health saying you must self-isolate, if you got a copy of the order.

But your employer can't require you to give them a doctor's note. Most times, this means that your employer will only be able to ask you whether you're sick. And they must accept your answer.

There's no limit on the number of days for this leave. You can take the leave as many times as you need to. But you can take it for only as long as you need it.

This leave is available until January 2, 2021. The government may extend this if the COVID-19 situation does not improve.

Getting legal help

If you're having trouble getting time off work, you may want to get legal help.

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