Can I stay home from work to care for a family member because of COVID-19?
You might need to stay home to care for a family member because of COVID-19. This might be because they're sick with COVID-19.
Some options you have are:
- taking Infectious Disease Emergency Leave
- asking for a human rights
- taking vacation time, if you have any
- using sick days if you have them and your employer's sick leave policy lets you do this
Also, the says that you get at least 3 unpaid sick days a year.
Take the Infectious Disease Emergency Leave
One option is to take the Infectious Disease Emergency Leave. Your employer does not have to pay you for this leave.
You can take this leave to care for or help a family member because of COVID-19. You can take this leave to care for:
- a spouse
- a parent
- a child
- a sibling
- a grandparent
- an uncle or aunt
- anyone else who thinks of you like a family member
The government of Ontario has a full list of eligible family members.
There are many different reasons why you might need to take this leave. For example, you can use it to take your grandmother to get vaccinated.
If you want to take this leave, you need to tell your employer as soon as possible. It's a good idea to tell them in writing. Your employer can't refuse to let you take the leave.
Your employer can ask for “reasonable” proof. For example, they can ask you for a note or email from your daycare provider saying that they had to close due to COVID-19.
How long you can take the leave
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. For example, if your daycare closed because of a COVID-19 outbreak, you can only take the leave until it opens again.
The government has not said when the leave will stop being available.
You may be able to get Employment Insurance (EI) benefits if you're caring for a family member who's very sick with COVID-19. For more information, read:
- I am caring for a child who is very sick. Can I get EI?
- I am caring for an adult who is very sick. Can I get EI?
Caring for your children or parents
If you have to stay home to care for your children or your parents, you have another option. You can ask your employer for accommodation.
The Human Rights Code protects people from being discriminated against because of their family status. But this includes only people who are in a parent-child type of relationship.
It might be if your employer stops you from carrying out your duties as a caregiver.
To avoid discriminating against you, your employer may have to you by changing your working conditions so you can care for your children or parents.
There are many ways this could happen. Some examples are:
- letting you work from home
- changing your work schedule
- letting you leave during the day to give your parent their medication
Your employer has to accommodate you only to the point of . This means that they do not have to accommodate you if it would be very difficult. For example, if there's no work that you can do from home, they don't have to let you do this.
Get help when you ask for accommodation
This can be a complicated area of law. If you want help, contact the Human Rights Legal Support Centre for free legal advice and information. They can help you figure out:
- if your situation is discrimination
- if there are things you can do to convince your employer to accommodate you
- if you can make a claim with the of Ontario
- what evidence you need to prove that your employer is discriminating against you
Read more in the question I have to take care of my child, does my employer have to accommodate me?
Caring for other family members
If you're caring for family members other than your parent or child, your employer may not have to accommodate you based on the Human Rights Code.
But you and your employer may be able to work something out.
Getting legal help
If you're having trouble getting time off work, you may want to get legal help.