Time off is required by employees for numerous reasons. Positive life experiences such as a much anticipated vacation or a maternity leave to care for a new baby require a break from an employee’s duties. Some unexpected life events such as a serious illness can also force an employee to step away from their job. Fortunately, Ontario’s Employment Standards Act (ESA) recognizes a variety of workplace leaves.
Vacation Time – Most employees, including part-time, seasonal, and student employees are eligible for vacation time. The ESA recognizes both paid and non-paid vacation time. For full-time employees, the vacation time is generally accrued over the first twelve months of consecutive employment. In this case, vacation pay must be at least four percent of the gross wages earned during the year. Many employers offer a compensation package that exceeds the minimum requirements, but they are under no obligation to do so.
Public Holidays – In Ontario, the ESA recognizes nine public holidays. Employees in most fields qualify for the days off with full pay. If the employee agrees to work on the holiday, they may be entitled to an additional premium rate of pay or another day off with pay. Public holiday pay is calculated based on your income during the four weeks prior to the week of the holiday.
Pregnancy Leave & Parental Leave – New moms who have been employed for a minimum of 13 weeks prior to the baby’s due date have the right to take up to 17 weeks off work. New parents who have been employed for a minimum of 13 weeks before the baby’s expected due date are also entitled to an additional time off in the form of a parental leave. In most cases, the birth mother will take advantage of both leaves, and will be granted a total of one year off work. However, both parents can be off at the same time on parental leave. The employer is not obligated to pay the employee during the time off, but in most cases the new parents will qualify for Employment Insurance to subsidize their lost wages.
Personal Emergency Leave – The ESA grants most of Ontario’s workers up to 10 days of unpaid workplace leave due to personal injury, illness, or emergency that affects themselves or an immediate family member or dependant. The days don’t necessarily need to be consecutive, and may include partial days off. However, this type of leave does not apply to everyone. In most cases, you must work for an organization that has 50 or more employees to qualify.
Family Medical Leave – If an employee’s family member or dependant falls ill, and has a significant chance of dying within a 26 week period, the employee is entitled to a leave of up to eight weeks. An employer is not obligated to pay for the time off, but in most cases the employee will qualify for Employment Insurance Compassionate Care Benefits. The person receiving care doesn’t necessarily need to be an immediate family member. They could be a step-child, aunt, or anyone else who considers the employee “like family” and requires their care during this difficult time.
If you are seeking time off, and are concerned that your employer is not complying with the Employment Standards Act, contact an employment lawyer to learn about your rights.