Bereavement Leave in Canada

I’m so sorry for your loss. I suspect that, if you’ve clicked on this piece it’s because you have recently lost someone. While the amount of comfort I can offer you here is quite limited, I hope that I can give you the information you need to ensure you get the time to grieve and surround yourself with the supportive people in your life.

Bereavement Leave under the Employment Standards Act

Unfortunately, there is no statutory entitlement to paid bereavement leave under the Employment Standards Act (ESA).

However, if you work for an employer who regularly employs 50 or more people, you are entitled to up to 10 days of unpaid personal emergency leave each calendar year. You may use this personal emergency leave as a bereavement leave for the death of an immediate family member including:

  • your spouse
  • your brother or sister
  • you or your spouse’s parent, step-parent or foster parent
  • you or your spouse’s grandparent or step-grandparent
  • you or your spouse’s child, step-child or foster child
  • you or your spouse’s grandchild or step-grandchild
  • your child’s spouse
  • your dependant relative

Though death is usually unpredictable, as with all leaves of absence, you must notify your employer of your intended absence as soon as you can. You should also note that a half-day taken off will count as a whole day of leave.

Evidence to Justify Bereavement Leave - Bereavement Leave in Canada

Evidence To Justify Leave

“evidence reasonable in the circumstances”

A point that sometimes causes confusion is an employer’s right to ask for evidence to justify an employee’s leave. In this regard, the ESA states:

“an employer may require an employee who takes leave under this section to provide evidence reasonable in the circumstances that the employee is entitled to the leave.”

While there is no guidance in the law for as to what exactly reasonable in the circumstances means, as with most pieces of employment legislation, the aim of the law is to balance the rights and interests of both the employer and the employee. What is reasonable will depend on the situation: length of leave requested, frequency of such absences, cost of absence to employer etc. So, for example, there is probably no need to ask an employee for proof of a relative’s death if they are taking a single day off; your employee’s word in this situation should be adequate evidence.

Bereavement Leave under the Canada Labour Code

Unlike employees governed by the ESA, employees under federal jurisdiction are entitled to paid bereavement leave under the Canada Labour Code.

Under the Code, you are entitled to up to three days paid bereavement leave if you have been employed with a company or organization for three consecutive months. If you haven’t been employed this long, you are still entitled to three days’ leave but this time will be unpaid. You are entitled to leave on any working day within the three-day period immediately following your relative’s death.

Bereavement Leave for Family Members - KCY at LAW

Bereavement Leave for Family Members

Family members for whose death you are entitled to take bereavement leave include:

  • your spouse
  • you or your spouse’s parent or this parent’s spouse
  • you or your spouse’s child
  • your brother or sister
  • your grandparent
  • any relative with whom you permanently reside

The three days of leave only apply to regular working days. For example, if your family member dies on Saturday, you would only be entitled to Monday and Tuesday off. Additionally, these leave provisions don’t apply if you are party to a collective agreement.

Bereavement Leave Legal Experts

If you have questions concerning your bereavement leave entitlements then we can help you. Get in touch with the experienced employment law team at KCY at LAW by calling (905) 639-0999 or contact us to find out more.