Question for an Ontario Employment Lawyer: Can I take time off to take care of a sick family member?

Question for an Ontario Employment Lawyer: Can I take time off to take care of a sick family member?

While Covid-19 continues to spread, the demand to take care of sick loved ones has sky-rocketed. As of May 2, 2021, there has been a recorded number of 470,000 Covid-19 cases in Ontario, which has affected many families. The Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA) offers an eight-week Family Caregiver Leave that is job-protected and unpaid so an employee can miss work to help a loved one who is suffering with a serious medical condition. This leave of absence is granted to take care of family members with any serious medical condition, but it can also work to greatly help families that have been affected by the COVID-19 virus.

This type of care can vary from the employee supplying emotional support, acquiring a required third party for additional support, and/or offering their own assistance for the family member.

It is important to note, especially when considering the severity of COVID-19, that Family Caregiver Leave is different than Family Medical Leave. Family Medical Leave is for cases where the family member has a chance of dying within a 26-week period, which in some cases, pertains to the COVID-19 virus.

Who is eligible to take this leave?

According to the ESA, any employee who is either part-time, full-time, per term, or permanent is eligible to receive this leave. Eligibility is also not defined by how long the employee has been employed.

Eligibility may also be defined by the familial connection the sick person has to the employee. The family member that the employee can assist is not limited to members only living in Ontario.

The employee may leave to help their family member who is:

  • A spouse,
  • A parent (this includes step-parent or foster parent of either the employee or spouse)
  • A grandparent (including step-grandparent),
  • A child (this could be a biological child, step-child, or foster child of the employee or spouse),
  • A grandchild (including step-grandchild),
  • A brother or sister,
  • Their child’s spouse,
  • A relative who is reliant on this employee’s aid.

How would the employee notify the employer?

The ESA outlines that the employee must acquire (with some urgency but not required before the leave begins) a medical certificate that is written by a medical practitioner. A medical practitioner, either a doctor, psychiatrist or nurse, must outline in the medical certificate that this family member has a serious medical condition that does not need to be described in detail.

If the employee does not obtain a medical certificate, they will not be eligible to take the leave and they will not be provided with the job protection the ESA provides.

To update the employer that the employee wishes to use their Family Caregiver Leave, the employee must produce a written notice stating their intentions. This notice needs to be delivered as soon as possible.

Further, the eight-week period the employee is granted for this leave may be separated into parts, and the sporadic periods of absence need to be identified to the employer.

If you have any questions about how Family Caregiver Leave pertains to your situation or want more information on the subject, please contact KCY at LAW by filling in an online consultation request or contact us by phone at 905-639-0999 to book your consultation today.