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When can I take a leave from work because of COVID-19?

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When can I take a leave from work because of COVID-19?
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CLEO (Community Legal Education Ontario / Éducation juridique communautaire Ontario)
CLEO (Community Legal Education Ontario / Éducation juridique communautaire Ontario)

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When can I take a leave from work because of COVID-19?
Reviewed: 
October 1, 2020
Answer

Since March 1, 2020, Ontario has had the Infectious Disease Emergency Leave. It lets you take unpaid time off because of COVID-19.

To qualify for this leave, one of the following must apply to you:

  • You're in quarantine because you have COVID-19.
  • You've been ordered to self-isolate because you might have COVID-19.
  • You've been ordered to self-isolate because you've been in contact with someone who has COVID-19.
  • You're caring for a family member for reasons related to COVID-19.
  • You have to care for your child because of COVID-19. For example, their daycare may be closed, or you may not want to send them to school because of COVID-19.
  • You're affected by a COVID-19 travel restriction.

There's no limit on the number of days for this leave. You can even take it for short periods of time, for example to help care for a family member one day a week because of COVID-19. But you can only take the leave for as long as you need it. Once you recover or no longer have to care for your family member, you must return to work.

And, you can take the leave as many times as you need to. For example, if you took the leave once because you thought you had COVID-19, you could take it again for a different reason or for the same reason.

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

Taking the leave

To take the Infectious Disease Emergency Leave, you need to tell your employer about your situation. 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
  • a note from your child's daycare saying they're closed because of COVID-19

But your employer can't require you to give them a doctor's note.

Other options

If you have vacation time, you may be able to use this before going on the Infectious Disease Emergency Leave. And you may be able to use paid sick days, if you have them, depending on your employer's sick leave policy. This will allow you to continue to get paid while on leave.

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

If you have to stay home to care for your children or your parents, you might be able to ask your employer for accommodation based on the Human Rights Code. This could allow you to work from home or change your work schedule.

Even if these other options are available to you, you don't have to use them. You can choose to take the Infectious Disease Emergency Leave if you prefer.

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